Avian Expert Articles

Summer Heat & Our Birds

chattering lory; lorikeet
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Summer — that sizzling time of the year when we try to stay hydrated and perhaps indulge in water-dense foods like watermelon and other juicy fruits. When exposed to the summer heat, we might break out in a sweat and seek shade to cool our bodies down. What about our feathered friends…how do they stay cool? Here are some interesting facts about birds and heat, and tips for helping our feathered companions stay comfortable all summer long.

Birds Do Not Sweat

two red, yellow, green, and blue colored parrots sitting in the water of a creek
Two Eastern rosellas (𝘗𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘺𝘤𝘦𝘳𝘤𝘶𝘴 𝘦𝘹𝘪𝘮𝘪𝘶𝘴) cool off in the water in their native Australia. Photo by Geoffrey Moore on Unsplash

Birds lack sweat glands, so you will not see sweat rolling down your bird’s body feathers or facial feathers no matter how hot it is. Nor will you feel sweaty bird feet when your bird is perched on your hand. If you see moisture on your bird, he or she most likely took a dunk in the water dish. Wild birds dip into puddles, birdbaths and other water sources to shake their feathers so that the droplets reach their skin. Similarly, our pet birds also might seek out ways to cool themselves down with water.

Feathers Help Control Body Temperature

Feathers are more than just a means for a bird to achieve flight. Feathers offer insulation, which helps birds stay warm during cool months. Much as we pull our jacket zippers up when we feel a chill, a bird might hold their feathers tightly against the body to preserve body heat. During warm months, a bird feeling the heat might fluff their feathers as a way to “ventilate” … like us unzipping our jackets. However, a bird with fluffed feathers and drooped wings accompanied by open beak panting is showing signs of heat stress, which is much more than simply feeling uncomfortable during hot weather. A bird displaying this behavior needs to be taken to a cool area right away and misted with cool (think room temperature, not frigid) water.

Not Raised “Sun Ready”

A bird who spends most of their time indoors should not be outdoors in direct sunlight for long (less than 20 minutes), and should never be left unattended. If you start to see signs of heat stress, bring your bird to a shady area or indoors and spray him or her with room-temperature water (frigid water can cause a bird to go into shock). Indoors or outdoors, an easy way to offer your bird a bit of shade is to cover a corner of the cage so that your feathered friend has a cooler spot to retreat to.

Help Your Bird Stay Hydrated

fresh fruit is a great treat on warm days! Photo by Ekam Juneja

Make sure your bird has access to fresh, clean water daily. Summer heat, combined with the fact that many birds enjoy dunking food in their water dish, can combine for a bacteria-laden water bowl. If you have a dunker, be extra diligent about replacing your bird’s drinking water throughout the day. A fun way to help your bird stay hydrated is to offer them fresh, water-dense fruit like watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber (yes, it has seeds, therefore a fruit!), and pineapple.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Summer Heat & Our Birds

  1. Hi, this was a very explanatory way to help , my parrot (green cheek conure) alway likes very cold water when he takes a bath, but in this circumstance makes total sense to spray him with room temperature water!! Thanx for letting me know about the heat circumstance! Now I realize what to look for, in this serious case!! Really appreciate all of your tips!

  2. My African Gray is still molting. Sees longer this year than before. She isn’t showing signs of heat trouble just seems sad and not herself. Being unable to fly seems to really make her sad. How can I help her? Thanks

    1. Try letting her experience new things: toys, experiences, environments, even people or other animals. They’re very smart birds, so they need the stimulation of new experiences. Good luck.

  3. Thank you for this information, it was very helpful. I did see my bird once this summer with his mouth open and I brought him right back in, and he Loves Watermelon.

  4. Interesting information. Much appreciated! I keep peach face parakeets and they are such a joy to watch during both, the warm and cold months. At the moment it’s quite cold where I live, (which is in the tropics).

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