Up at our New Hampshire office, we had a bit of a heat wave recently. And with the calendar inching ever closer to August, the entire Northern Hemisphere is well into the dog days of summer. Luckily for us homo sapiens, we have the technological know-how to create areas that are temperature-controlled, and so can escape the Sun’s wrath by moving indoors to air-conditioned rooms.
Birds, however, lack the intellectual capacity to build such machines and thus have fewer artificial options to make the summer heat more tolerable. Note the use of the word “artificial” – because fortunately for birds, they can still utilize a few more natural ways of keeping cool.
Unfortunately, one of these ways is not sweating. Curiously enough, birds have no sweat glands, giving humans another advantage over them when it comes to beating the heat. Compounding that small evolutionary oddity are the facts that birds’ natural body temperature generally hovers around 105 degrees Fahrenheit, birds’ metabolic rates are generally fairly high and birds’ lifestyles are active ones. But despite the deck being stacked against them in those regards, birds can still get through heat waves without all keeling over.
Much like dogs, birds will pant in an effort to lower their body temperature. Going hand-in-hand with that behavior is the respiration rate that birds have evolved to possess – in other words, they breathe rapidly enough that their body heat is dispersed much quicker than if they were to breathe at a normal speed. Additionally and as you might expect, the parts of birds that are covered with feathers (read: most of them) hold heat extremely well. Accordingly, there are still a few bare patches of skin on various birds – usually on the legs, feet and face – that allow some amount of heat to escape.
If those strategies don’t work to their satisfaction, birds are smart enough to have figured out other behaviors over the millennia that can combat the blazing heat. Much like those of us who choose to either stay out of the direct sunlight or inside altogether on a hot day, birds will not only try to stick to shaded areas as much as possible but will also cut down on their activity level during those parts of the day when the Sun is highest and most intense. When a bird is lucky enough to be caught in a cool breeze, it may puff out its feathers or flutter its wings in an effort to let the fresh air hit its exposed skin. Finally, some lighter-colored birds have even become little avian scientists and will turn those parts of themselves that are lightest toward the Sun. The reason? Lighter colors reflect more heat, and so these birds won’t absorb as much heat from the Sun’s rays.
But sometimes, birds just can’t do it all on their own. Luckily, we offer plenty of products that further help birds stay cool beyond what they’re able to accomplish by themselves. From bird baths to waterers/water coolers and even decorative fountains, there are many options for birders to consider when they decide they want to help their backyard birds out. Baths come in all shapes and sizes, so whether you want a small hanging bath such as the Hanging Verdigris Bird Bath or a large ground bath such as the Rocky Mountain Spring Bath (seen below), you’ll have plenty of opportunities to find the bath that best fits your situation. Waterers and water coolers such as the Water Cooler Bird Waterer give birds plenty to drink, while fountains like the Chatsworth Two Tier Solar Fountain attract even more birds with the motion and sounds of running water.
So even though birds may not be able to enjoy sitting in 72-degree living rooms as the concrete cracks outside and eggs fry on the sidewalk, they’ve found many ways to beat the heat nonetheless – and they don’t even have to pay for any of them. Happy birding!
- By Sean Peick (Guest Writer)
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