How Can You Help Birds Beat the Heat?

August and hot can be used interchangeably in Colorado. As summer heats up, have you ever wondered how birds cool off? There are many different answers to the thermo-regulation processes in our avian amigos.

Some birds cool off by ululation, which is fluttering the gular sac in their throats to cool their bodies. This is similar to a dog panting. Other birds find shade and reduce their activity to keep their metabolism and caloric activity low.

American Robin in Birdbath

American Robin in birdbath by Steven Depolo

How can we help birds beat the heat, you may ask? Frequently, during simmering mid-day heat, you will see birds drinking from and standing in birdbaths. Birds will regulate their temperatures by standing in water. The blood vessels in their legs will enlarge, allowing the blood to flow freely in their legs below the surface of the cooling water. In this way, the birdbath functions as a radiator, cooling the bird’s blood and in turn cooling the bird. In winter, these same blood vessels will contract, keeping the blood up inside the body where it retains heat.

The proper birdbath will always attract more birds than feeding alone. A birdbath should be about 2-and-a-half inches deep at its deepest point. It should have gradually sloping sides so all sizes of birds can enter and leave the bath easily.

Placement of the bath is also important. The bath should be no closer than 5 feet to the nearest bushes or cover. That way cats and other predators can’t hide in the bushes and pounce on the birds. The bath should be no further away from cover than about 15 feet. Wet birds don’t fly well and need to get to safety easily if predators approach. Proper placement will ensure better activity at your birdbath, as the birds will feel safer.

Rippling water can help birds find your birdbath. Light refracts off the ripples, catches the bird’s eye and works like a bird magnet. This can be done by hanging a clean water jug over the bath with a small hole poked in the bottom. The water can drip several times a minute, which is sufficient to attract them. I use a Wild Birds Unlimited water wiggler. This battery-operated device simply stirs the water creating ripples. It also slows algae growth and keeps mosquitos from breeding in the bath.

For plenty of friendly, free advice on attracting the most beautiful birds in the world, call 303-467-2644.

~ David Menough, Owner of Wild Birds Unlimited of Arvada

David and his wife, Kathy, own the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the southeast corner of 88th and Wadsworth in Arvada. WBU stores specialize in bird feeders, birdbaths, houses, field guides, nature-related gifts, binoculars and quality seed blends.

Other WBU Front Range locations:

  • Wild Birds Unlimited of Denver – 2720 S. Wadsworth Blvd.
  • Wild Birds Unlimited of Fort Collins – 3636 S. College Ave.

BirdTalk migrating to noon! Tune in to David and Scott Menough at noon on Saturdays for BirdTalk Radio on 710 KNUS. They will broadcast live from their stores in Arvada and Denver.

Learn more about bird-friendly living.