how to save a bird from heat exhaustion

In a recent article, I suggested some techniques that can be used to keep your birds cool and safe during hot weather (please see article below). Today I’d like to take a look at recognizing and dealing with heat stress and heat stoke.

Note: the attached photos depict some North American birds that are well-adapted to desert habitats – the Roadrunner, Gila Woodpecker and Elf Owl.

It will take decisive action to prevent people and birds from suffering the worst effects of a warming climate. According to Brooke Bateman, director of climate science at Audubon, “we need a holistic approach to extreme events because they’re a part of the climate change story, and they’re only going to get worse if we do nothing.”

Make a commitment to support Audubon in urging decision-makers to pay attention to science and pursue climate solutions.

You can use the resources provided by Audubon’s Bird-Friendly Communities team to advocate for native plant resolutions, proclamations, and ordinances. When it comes to raising awareness of a problem, Pantin says that even a non-enforceable declaration or resolution can be very helpful.

Birds release extra heat when the temperature rises by basically panting, which is the process of evaporating water from their lungs and upper respiratory tract. This can be useful for dispersing heat, but it depletes a bird’s water supply very rapidly. According to Wolf, “the more water they have to evaporate and the more frequently they have to drink, the higher the air temperature.”

An earlier draft of this article featured a picture of Ryan Raz’s bird bath.

A heat-stressed parrot or other bird will eventually develop what is only known as a “glassy-eyed stare” and may become unresponsive to sounds or other stimuli. It is now progressing from heat stress to heat stroke. The bird will sway back and forth and wobble when standing. The victim will eventually pass out and possibly experience convulsions. It appears that clots obstructing blood flow through the vessels supplying the bird’s brain are what caused the actual “stroke.”

In the event that a bird shows symptoms of heat stroke or stress, prompt action must be taken. When a bird is experiencing heat stress, fans and air conditioners should be used whenever feasible. A brief shift in air temperature won’t cause the bird undue stress. Offer a bath as well; to encourage the bird to use it, you could even stand it in it. Gatoraide can be added to the bath and/or drinking water.

Note: The Roadrunner, Gila Woodpecker, and Elf Owl are three examples of North American birds that are well suited to desert environments that are shown in the attached photos.

When a bird experiences heat stress, it will spread its wings away from its body and pant by pumping its throat. Gular flapping, so named because birds lack sweat glands, is the avian equivalent of sweating and results in heat loss into the atmosphere. Treatment instituted at this point will usually prevent heat stroke.

I recently offered some tips in an article on how to keep your birds safe and cool in the summer (please see article below). Today, I’d like to discuss how to identify and manage heat stroke and heat stress.


How do you help a bird in heat?

Offer Water. Wolf, who has been studying avian responses to extreme heat for over two decades, says that water and shade are the two most important things an individual can provide to help birds stay cool. That’s because both are essential for the strategies birds use to avoid overheating.

How do you cool down a hot bird?

If a bird is displaying the effects of heat stress, it needs to be immediately cooled down with a gentle spray of water or damping with a cool sponge under his wings, feet and beak.