"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How birds keep their cool

A song sparrow visits a birdbath in Mission Viejo.  Photo by J.J. Meyer
Birds have special adaptations to help them beat the heat.  Perhaps you've seen them open their wings on a hot day to allow the air to circulate over their bodies.  They've even been known to flap their wings to cool their eggs while sitting on a nest.  Birds also perform a type of avian panting called "gular fluttering."  It looks like panting because they open their mouths and flutter their neck muscles, which helps promote heat loss.  The difference is that birds don't drool like dogs when they do this; they're more efficient about conserving their body fluids. Even so, birds do need fresh water.  So change the water in your birdbaths every day in extreme heat.  Don't make it too deep; one inch of water is enough.  Birds are especially attracted to moving water, so consider adding a mister or other device to make your bath more attractive.  Stagnant water can play host to mosquito larvae, which can carry the West Nile Virus.
Happy Birding!

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