The very mention of summer and heat makes us think of desert land. Countless films have shown thirsty travellers lost in the desert, uttering the words, ‘Water! Wa-a-ter, waaa…” But then what do you do if the temperature even in the desert shade is as high as 50 degree centigrade, hot winds almost cut you up into pieces, and there is no water, or even saliva in your mouth?
If you are smart like the desert animals, you would probably sleep during the day and move about at night. And, like these animals, you would make a hole in the ground and wait till the sun goes down.
But, birds do not have the ability to dig burrows. They have to think of other means to escape the sun, by thinking smartly. The desert lark, found in the Arabian desert, is one such creature. Borrow or steal another animal’s burrow is its philosophy. It spends its days in burrows made by the Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard.
Often, the original owner of the house, the lizard, also is found in the burrow. But since the lizard is a vegetarian and quite happy to have company, the bird is safe. The Economist magazine has reported these fascinating facts discovered by two scientists in the desert near Taif, Saudi Arabia. The scientists have found that there are as many as 30 burrows in every square kilometre of desert land. And that probably saves the lark’s life.
Out in the sun, the hoopoe lark’s body rapidly loses water — almost 10 per cent of its body weight in one hour in direct sunlight. Even in the shade, it loses about 1.4 grams of water an hour. It saves itself by lying flat on the ground.
But the lark is not a bird that believes in sharing and caring, as the scientists found out. They took out a lark from one burrow and placed it in another which was already occupied by another bird. That one was not willing to share its space with the outsider and fought with it. Which is rather strange, for the lizard burrow has enough space for many of them. It is almost three to four metres long. But then that’s the way the lark is.