Our Feathered Friends Surviving The Heat

Although we worry, our feathered friends do have ways to survive the heat wave that has engulfed the United States.  Most important is locating water.  Birds do not sweat, and extreme heat stresses their body temperature.  They must remove this excess body heat through their respiratory system.  You can see this when they can be seen panting like a dog.  This activity dehydrates birds and increases their need to replace lost fluids.  Birds must also be ready to fly at all times, and bathing is a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition.  Here’s an osprey I captured panting on a snag along Route 50.

Osprey ‘panting’ to cool off

Of course, we have plenty of water along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay where birds can drink and bathe to their heart’s content.  But there are critical inland areas throughout the United States where a drop of water is nowhere to be found.  Be a friend to your area birds and set out a bird bath in the area where they gather or nest; this can be as simple as a trash can lid filled with water and laid on the ground.  Freshen it every few days.  They will appreciate and use it!  🙂

Seeking shade and soaring also provide relief.  In addition, birds will puff out/spread their feathers periodically to allow any breezy circulating air reach their hot skin as another way to cool off.  I have recently seen many birds doing this.  The following puffed-up birds were all photographed cooling off in my backyard and community.

Mourning Dove “cooling off”

Mallard “cooling off”

American Robin “cooling off”

Green Heron “cooling off”

House Finch “cooling off”

Killdeer “cooling off”

Northern Mockingbird “cooling off”

House Finch “cooling off” on my balcony

Great Blue Heron “cooling off”

Thank goodness for a bird’s instinct to try to find ways to get relief from the heat.  Please remember, in extreme heat water is the most important thing for their survival, so if you can assist our feathered friends with any make-shift “birdbaths”, you’ll be helping them out tremendously.

Keep yourselves cool as well, and drink plenty of water!  As always, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you had an enjoyable & safe 4th of July!   🙂

27 thoughts on “Our Feathered Friends Surviving The Heat

  1. Great post … I really love all the shots of them cooling off. Here in Florida it’s always hot so I guess our resident birds are acclimated to the heat. Thanks for sharing … Tom

    • Thanks Tom! Maybe so, I know ours should be use to it somewhat by late July & all of August, but the high temps came way to early up here for ours to have been ready for it. But nature does have a way of taking care of her wildlife. 🙂

  2. Hi Donna, Great post!

    On another subject, my friend lives on the shore of a lake here that is frequented by occasional ospreys. I told him he need to build a platform off-shore for them. How far off-shore, and how tall to you think it should be? Do you have any idea?

    Thanks, Bob?

    • Bob, how’d I miss your comment??!!!! 😦 So sorry & shame on me! Here’s a link http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/downloads/cwnj_12.pdf
      that gives a materials list and directions for building an osprey platform. It is best if the platform pole can be installed at least 10-20 ft off-shore in 3-6 feet of water. However, it can be installed at the water’s edge too but at least surround the base by water to keep predators from climbing the pole. Height should be 15-25 feet out of the water, the higher the better as far as the osprey is concerned. I have another simpler platform you can build that I will email you tonight from home. The osprey aren’t too picky and will appreciate anything to build on. As they say, “if you build it, they will come!”

      • Thanks a bunch, Donna. My friend has a home on a lake, with a little peninsula jutting out further into the water and he thanks that will be an ideal place to put it.


  3. Thank you Donna for your compassion and care for our friends the birds! I appreciate your kindness! 🙂

  4. Excellent shots, it is a bit toasty out here, I’m in centreal illinois today and its going to 103degrees without the heat index…YUUUUCKKK!

  5. Great photos as always! We keep two small pans of water for the birds and chipmunks and one tub that holds about 20 gallons. I keep a few big rocks in it so that if someone falls in he can climb back out. We also have bird feeders out. This time of year though, the water is a much bigger hit than the feeders and all kinds of critters use it besides the birds, especially the deer. (And who know who all is there at night!)

    • Thanks and kudos to you! You definitely have lots of wildlife buddies who appreciate you & your family, helping them out. I bet at night you do have some surprise visitors! 🙂

  6. I was watching a baby osprey pant on the nesting platform closest to where we live, and the mother stretched out her wings over her two babies heads to make a parasol for them.

    • It is endearing to see a momma osprey parasol their young while she endures it. I photographed during one of last year’s heatwaves our osprey momma, Olivia, leave the nest and fly down to the water, immerse herself, and then fly back up to the nest and shade her babies while she dripped on them. I was so impressed and all smiles! Olivia was such a great mom. 🙂

      • I enjoyed hearing about Olivia’s ingenuity. 🙂

        We just went to visit the local, Osprey nesting platform, and to our shock, they were all gone. Our last trip was two weeks ago, and the young were pretty large. I just didn’t think they would have fledged already.

        I was also surprised to see a number of migratory birds (egrets and cormorant). It seems to early for them to be migrating south. I could swear they usually do this later.

        The water in our reservoir is really low due to lack of rain.

      • I haven’t seen any osprey fledglings in our area yet, but there certainly is a lot of flapping going on on the nests, so they are getting close and ready to take that first flight. If yours have just fledged, they should still be frequenting the nest for long periods of rest and food deliveries from the parents. With the extreme heat, if they’re not on the nest much, they should be very close perched in the trees around the nest. They will keep & still protect the nest as a home base for meet-ups and feedings until instinct kicks in and tells them to fly south. If no sightings at all of osprey on the nest, sounds like something has disturbed them. Unfortunately, I have read numerous nest failures this season due to predators, the most common being the Great Horned Owl. Here’s a recent occurrence: http://www.louisvillenaturally.com/2012/06/heartbreaking-end-to-lake-barkleys.html. I truly hope you return and do see the fledglings perched or flying around, they should be learning to use and gain strength in those big wings of theirs. Let me know! 🙂

  7. Great photos, Donna! Songbirds (and squirrels) here have been panting too. Keeping birdbaths & feeders full & occasionally running a trickle from a sprinkler during this oppressive heat.

    • Thanks Martha! Funny you mention the squirrel panting, I just saw one in our community doing the same thing. Our assistance to any wildlife with water and feed during this terrible heat is a tremendous help! Thanks for your help!! 🙂

  8. Donna, I was just searching around via Google on how birds keep cool and YOU came up – I should have looked here first, great post and great photos! We’ve installed a makeshift birdbath in our garden b/c beak marks seem to indicate that desperate birds of all kinds are “drinking” our tomatoes. 🙂 Over the past few days observing our feathered friends, “how do they keep cool” is certainly a question that certainly comes to mind. Do you know whether or not fledglings will leave the nest sooner due to heat?

    • WOW! And thanks Amanda! A few years ago I saw birds drink from my tomatoes too, hope the birds are now enjoying/using your birdbath so the tomatoes can reach your table! I really don’t have an answer on whether fledglings would leave the nest sooner due to the heat. Great question though! I actually googled myself and couldn’t find anything about it. Our common sense would think that if they were already close to fledging that they might, just to get away from each other’s hot bodies to breath easier; but I wonder if their instinct and fear might override. Seems like there are possible dangers if they do fledge sooner (but not yet strong enough to stay perched or possibly falling from the tree & not being able to return) or don’t fledge sooner (and succumbed to the heat within the overfilled nest). Mother nature needs to just lay off the extreme heat!

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