This month, researchers use data from almost 10,000 bird species to tease out a relationship between migration and feathers — specifically, how pale a bird’s feathers tended to be.
Some migratory birds fly higher in the sky than others, the researchers note. Like Icarus, the Sun’s heat can beat down on their backs the higher they go. But unlike Icarus, birds’ wings don’t melt — and lighter feathers may help regulate their body temperature at these higher altitudes.
“We think that lighter plumage coloration is selected in migratory species because it reduces the risk of overheating when exposed to sunshine.”
Birds are already changing their bodies to adapt to warming temperatures and changing habitats.
In the Amazon rainforest, for example, birds are shrinking.