Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Birds Need Water to Survive the Heat
July 26, 2014
By Steve Grinley

     Water is one of the key components often over-looked when trying to attract birds to your backyard. Sure birds enjoy seed and suet, and they appreciate the shelter that you provide, but birds also need water all year long. The most basic item which sustains life, water, can become the difference between life and death, even for birds. Most birds need water to rehydrate as well as to bathe and to cool down when summer temperatures reach critical highs. 

     We can help birds survive weather extremes, be it hot or cold, by keeping bird feeders filled and providing a source of fresh water. Be sure to change the nectar in your hummingbird feeder more frequently, every two to three days, during the hot weather. Natural food sources, such as fruits and berries, or plants that provide a variety of seeds will surely help. Seed feeders can provide supplemental foods for many birds. Suet feeders offer a great animal protein substitute for birds when there is a short supply of insects. Shelled peanuts or sunflower meats are also a good alternative as they are high in protein. 

     Birds dissipate body heat much like a dog by panting. You may have seen birds with their beaks open wide during hot days in an attempt to cool down. Birds do not sweat but pant much like dogs to disperse heat. This is why water is extremely important for birds, not only for drinking, but for giving them somewhere to bathe. Clean feathers are just as important to a bird’s health during hot weather as they are during the frigid winter months

     A shallow water source can provide a place for birds to drink and bathe. It can be anything from a simple pan set on the ground to a birdbath. Bird baths come in all shapes and sizes. They can sit on the ground, attach to a deck, fence, or pole, or they can hang from a tree or hook. Water depth should be about two inches to allow smaller birds to drink and bath. You can add pebbles or a piece of shale to deeper baths to make them more bird friendly. 

     Keep bird baths filled with fresh water and clean them regularly. Since the sun promotes algae growth, try locating your water source in the shade. This will greatly reduce the number of times your bath needs a good cleaning. There is also an enzyme additive that you can add to your bird bath or fountain. A capful keeps water clear and free of algae and mineral deposits. If you have a stagnant bath and are worried about mosquitoes, you can add non-toxic “mosquito dunks” that reduce the surface tension of the water preventing mosquito larvae.

     Adding a dripper will keep a bird bath full of fresh water during times of heavy usage and high evaporation. A dripper, waterfall rock, solar fountain or “Water Wiggler” also creates motion in the water which almost magically attracts more birds.

     The fall migration has begun and migrating birds will require water, as well as large quantities of food to sustain them on their journey south. With the onset of fall and winter, resident birds will only survive the colder nights on what foods they consume during the shortened daylight hours. Birds are going to face a number of challenges finding food and water in the months ahead. The actions we take in our backyards by providing supplemental food sources and water may be the difference between life and death for many birds. So provide for the birds! It will make a world of difference.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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