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
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
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.