Skip to Main Content

Habitat Tip: Helping Birds Beat The Heat

Photo of blue jays in bird bath

Blue jays in bird bath by Mike’s Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As we move into the sultry dog days of summer, don’t forget our feathered friends. Birds don’t have sweat glands like people, so they’ve evolved other ways to cool off. Panting, like your dog, is one way, especially for our smaller songbirds. Their fluffy down feathers insulate from the heat, as they do from the cold. Birds will change their schedules to be out and active during the cooler parts of the day, and take a siesta in the shade during the peak heat. And birds like to splash in shallow water to cool off and rehydrate. Be it streams, puddles, or bird baths, a nice dip in cool waters is refreshing! 

Photo of bluebird bath

Bluebird bath by Olga Thornwell

If you’d like to provide a bird bath, use a shallow dish, 1-2 inches deep, so the smaller birds aren’t overwhelmed. A terra cotta plant pot saucer will do (check out our instructions on making a homemade birdbath, here!). You can zhuzh it up with some non-toxic paint if you like. Place a clean flat rock in the bottom of the bath for the shorty birds and fill with cool 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 the water daily, and scrub with a weak bleach solution every few days and let dry thoroughly before refilling with clean water. If you really want to give the birds a thrill, place a small solar fountain in the bird bath. It helps keep algae and mosquitoes at bay and the birds will dance under the falling water. Remember: If you’re hot, they’re hot!

For more tips on helping our wildlife stay hydrated, check out this Wild Acres article.

Make sure you follow us on Facebook for more tips like these, plus more native animal and plant profiles!

Welcome back to HabiChat!

My name is Sarah Witcher, and I’m new here! With the help of Edwin Guevara and Paula Becker, I’ll be taking over in the HabiChat and Wild Acres realm, hoping to continue to inspire (and be inspired by) Maryland nature enthusiasts. Feel free to reach out to us with any wildlife questions or topics you’d like to know more about, or share what you’ve done in the past year with your backyard habitat. We’d love to hear from you!

In this issue, we’ll consider how to approach the “littler” critters and appreciate mini-Maryland wildlife through the use of a macro lens. Also, habitat tips about end-of-summer bird baths and our favorite ferns will be featured, with a fun leaf print activity for artists of any age. Finally, enjoy a new section that will highlight the very best of what we here at the Natural Heritage Program do within the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. 

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


Sarah Witcher

Click here to have HabiChat—the quarterly backyard wildlife habitat newsletter from the Wild Acres program—delivered right to your inbox!

In this Issue

Header image with bumblebee