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It turns out, a raven's black plumage works quite well in the desert. Black feathers do conduct the sun’s warming rays, but they concentrate that solar heat near the feathers’ surface. All it takes is a breeze from the wind, or from flying, to move all that heat away from the surface of the feathers.
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The Benefits of a Raven’s Black Feathers
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
Above a desert landscape, a raven soars, sleek black feathers against a vast blue sky.
The desert seems an unlikely choice for this all-black bird. But ravens thrive even in the hot, arid Southwest, where common sense suggests that light-colored feathers would be a better adaptation to the scorching sun.
[Calls of Common Ravens; http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/44757, 0.24-27][Music]
But as it turns out, a raven's black plumage works quite well in the desert. Black feathers do conduct the sun’s warming rays, but they concentrate that solar heat near the feathers’ surface. All it takes is a light breeze to move all that heat away from the raven’s dark feathers.
Light-colored feathers absorb some of the sun’s rays, too. But they also tend to trap the heat closer to the skin, where it’s harder for cooling breezes to reach. So in even a slight wind, the skin of a black-feathered bird stays cooler than the skin of a white-feathered one.
[Music] [Common Raven call set; http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/132161, 0.22-26]
For BirdNote, I'm Ashley Ahearn.
If you ever miss a BirdNote, you can always get the latest episode. Just tell your smart speaker, “Play the podcast BirdNote.” Learn more on our website, BirdNote.org.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
Narrator: Ashley Ahearn
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Common Raven call  recorded by Gerrit Vyn. “Houston In Two Seconds (Soundtrack Version)” by Ry Cooder, from “Paris Texas Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” 2001 Warner Bros. Records Inc and WEA International Inc.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2019 BirdNote December 2014/2019/2022
ID# CORA-08b-2019-12-2 CORA-08b