when do birds start drinking water

132704a132704aEarlier this week I was down in Phoenix, and it was 112 degrees outside. Fortunately, I love the heat, and this kind of weather doesn’t bother me at all. While in Phoenix I was seeing and hearing a variety of birds such as grackle, verdin, flycatcher, quail, dove and gnatcatcher. It is a marvel to think that all of these wild birds can endure such intense heat in such an arid habitat.

It is interesting to contemplate how wild birds historically got water before human settlers began providing water sources for birds in the form of bird baths, fountains, ponds and other man-made water sources.

The whole southwest region is in the midst of an extended period of drought. No doubt this pattern has repeated itself on numerous occasions over thousands of years, so we may ask, “How did birds get water during extended periods of hot, dry weather?”

In the Prescott area, we can easily go 60 days without any measurable precipitation. Down in the valley, it is possible to experience a span of 90 days without any measurable precipitation.

However, birds are resourceful. They exploit water sources wherever they can be found and in whatever form the water can be found. For example, think about your experience of driving down the road when a bug hits your windshield, producing a big ‘SPLAT’ as it makes impact. This experience illustrates how much water is in insects. This is one example of where birds get water – by eating insects.

Another source of water for wild birds is plants. Many species of birds eat buds, leaves, flower petals and other plant parts, extracting water from the vegetation they eat. This is particularly true of Gambel’s quail. Many a gardener in the Prescott area has experienced the frustration of quail plucking and eating freshly sprouted plants from his garden.

In summer, most bird species that are considered seed-eaters during the winter months change their diet to insects. There are several reasons for this change in diet. One reason is the fact that when adult birds are rearing their young, they do not feed them seeds. The moisture content in most seeds found in nature is very low. Baby birds in the nest have no way of getting a drink, so they get their water from the food their parents are bringing them – which is primarily insects.

Another reason wild birds switch their diet from seeds to insects in the spring and summer months is because of the profusion of insects available. In fall, when we start to experience freezing temperatures, the insect population crashes resulting in most insect-eating varieties of birds to migrate. Those species that don’t migrate switch their diet from insects back to seeds to get

Providing a clean source of water is any easy and inexpensive way to attract birds to your yard – especially this year. It seems reasonable that our lack of winter and spring rains has reduced the natural food sources available to birds. More than ever, this year, the wild birds in your yard could use a helping hand.

This Saturday, Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott we will be hosting a book signing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Author Al Lodwick recently published a book titled “Highlights of the Highlands Center and Lynx Lake Area of Arizona, A Naturalist’s View.” Al is generously donating all of the proceeds from the sale of his book to the Highlands Center to provide scholarships for kids to attend camp programs at the center. I invite you to come by Saturday and pick up a copy of Al’s new book.

Some Birds Provide Liquids Differently

The distinctive quality of pigeons and doves is that their adult birds produce a thick, milk-like substance in their crop, which all of their young consume as “crop milk.”

The adult squabs’ bill is where the young squabs place their head to drink, taking in the protein and water from it.

Flamingos and Penguins also provide a type of “crop milk”

The majority of bird species that are thought to be seed-eaters in the winter switch to eating insects in the summer. There are several reasons for this change in diet. One explanation is that adult birds do not feed seeds to their young when they are raising them. The majority of seeds found in nature have very little moisture in them. Due to their lack of access to water, nestling birds obtain their water from the food their parents bring them, which is mainly insects.

We can easily go 60 days without any detectable precipitation in the Prescott area. It is possible to go 90 days without any detectable precipitation down in the valley.

We are currently experiencing an extended period of drought throughout the entire Southwest. Since this pattern has probably occurred thousands of times over, one may wonder, “How did birds get water during extended periods of hot, dry weather?”

132704a132704aEarlier this week I was down in Phoenix, and it was 112 degrees outside. Fortunately, I love the heat, and this kind of weather doesn’t bother me at all. While in Phoenix I was seeing and hearing a variety of birds such as grackle, verdin, flycatcher, quail, dove and gnatcatcher. It is a marvel to think that all of these wild birds can endure such intense heat in such an arid habitat.

The abundance of insects in the spring and summer is another reason why wild birds migrate from eating seeds to eating insects. The majority of insect-eating bird species migrate in the fall when the insect population plummets and the temperatures drop to below freezing. Species that do not migrate return to eating seeds instead of insects in order to