During extreme hot spells, you can do yourself and your birds a big favor by providing the birds with a reliable source of water.
Water is crucial to birds. Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water. Offering a dependable source of water is probably the simplest and most important step you can take to greatly increase the variety of birds in your yard.
It can also increase your enjoyment by attracting birds that are not typical "feeder birds" and by giving you the opportunity to watch birds' often comical antics as they drink, bathe, and preen.
A dripper attracted this young male Scarlet Tanager
But as entertaining as it is for us, water (or the lack thereof) can be deadly for birds. Birds must be ready to fly at all times, and bathing is a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition.
Water is also vitally important when it's extremely hot when a bird’s ability to regulate its body temperature becomes stressed. Birds don't sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system. So when temperatures rise, a bird's respiration rate increases, sometimes to the point that it can be seen panting like a dog. This activity dehydrates birds and increases their need for a reliable source of water to replace lost fluids.
So, while the addition of a bird bath, fountain or mister to your yard can supply hours of enjoyable bird watching entertainment for you, it may also be a lifesaver for the birds in our yards.
Adapted from text provided by WBU, Inc. All images by Nancy Castillo.