Help birds beat the heat


Habitat Tip: Helping Birds Beat the Heat

Blue jays in a birdbath by Mike’s Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As we head into the scorching hot days of summer, don’t forget our feathered friends. Birds don’t have sweat glands like humans, so they have evolved other ways to cool themselves. Panting, like your dog, is one way, especially for our little songbirds. Their fluffy feathers insulate from heat, as they do from cold. The birds will change their schedules to be outdoors and active during the cooler parts of the day, and nap in the shade during peak heat. And birds like to wade in shallow water to cool off and rehydrate. Whether it’s streams, puddles or birdbaths, a good dip in the cool waters is refreshing!

Photo of the bluebird bath

Bluebird bath by Olga Thornwell

If you want to provide a birdbath, use a shallow dish, 1 to 2 inches deep, so that small birds don’t get overwhelmed. An earthenware saucer will do (see our instructions on how to make a homemade birdbath, here!). You can zhuzh it with non-toxic paint if you wish. Place a flat, clean stone at the bottom of the bath for small birds and fill it with fresh, clean water. Place the bath in the open, where the bird can use it without being accosted by feral cats or other predators. Keep it clean, refresh water daily and scrub with a weak bleach solution every few days and allow to dry completely before refilling with clean water. If you really want to give the birds chills, place a small solar-powered fountain in the birdbath. This helps keep algae and mosquitoes away and the birds will dance under the falling water. Remember: if you’re hot, they’re hot!

For more tips to help our wildlife stay hydrated, check out this Wild Acres article.

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Welcome to HabiChat!

My name is Sarah Witcher and I’m new here! With the help of Edwin Guevara and Paula Becker, I will take over the HabiChat and Wild Acres estate, hoping to continue to inspire (and be inspired by) nature enthusiasts in Maryland. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or wildlife topics you would like to learn more about, or share what you have been up to over the past year with your garden habitat. We would love to hear from you!

In this issue, we’ll look at how to approach the “little” creatures and appreciate the wildlife of mini Maryland through the use of a macro lens. Plus, habitat tips on late summer birdbaths and our favorite ferns will be featured, along with a fun leaf-printing activity for artists of all ages. Finally, enjoy a new section that will highlight the best of what we do here at the Natural Heritage Program within the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

We hope you will come visit us and meet our new staff at the Maryland State Fair.


Sarah Witcher
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Header image with bumblebee


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