Keeping Birds Cool
On very hot summer days you may wonder how birds keep themselves cool. Birds are very well adapted to hot climates and they have a number of characteristics and behaviours to help them regulate their body temperature.
Birds have a naturally higher body heat than many other animals at an average temperature of 105°C. Birds have a high metabolic rate and active lifestyle that generates body heat that needs to be controlled for them to stay healthy.
Birds do not have sweat glands but they have a rapid respiration rate that allows greater heat dissipation through regular breathing. Bare skin on their legs, feet and face allow greater heat loss than if the area were covered in feathers.
During hot weather birds will change their behaviour to keep cool such as panting. Just like dogs they will open their mouths and pant to dissipate heat on a hot day. Birds are less active during the middle of the day and will move more to find food in the evening when the sun is lower and the air is cooler. Birds will seek out shady patches low to the ground during the hottest time of the day particular those near water sources.
Birds will spread out their feathers or flutter their wings to let air circulate nearer their skin and they will turn their lightest parts towards the sun so more heat is reflected away from their bodies.
You will see birds of prey soaring higher during the summer months in the cooler air found at high altitudes. And birds will migrate to northern latitudes to find cooler climates.
One of the most important things you can do during hot weather is provide water to birds. You can do this in a number of ways.
Bird baths provide water for drinking as well as bathing – on hot days you will need to top up the water regularly to prevent it evaporating or going stagnant. Moving water is very attractive to birds so consider a bird bath with a fountain or provide a mister or dripper.
Plant native trees and shrubs to provide shade for birds to shelter under. Plants with berries, fruit and seeds will also provide many natural food sources for birds.
It is important to keep providing nutritious bird food during the summer months so they do not overheat searching out natural food sources. Try avoiding fat based food such as suet which can go rancid in hot weather.
By providing water, food and shade throughout the summer you will attract a variety of birds to your garden.