July brings summer heat

Barbara Hootman

It is July and the record breaking temperature is witness to the fact that the Valley is in the throes of a scorching hot early summer.  With rising temperature comes the need for water sources for songbirds.  Wild birds and other critters depend on water as much as humans do.

After a dip in a water source bird find a sunny spot, fluffs its feathers and proceeds to preen each feather.  As it preens a bird adds a protective coat of oil secreted by a gland at the base of its tail feathers.  The oil helps the bird become waterproof and remove parasites.

A consistent water source will bring more songbirds to your habitat including those that don’t eat seeds.

Often birdbaths are too deep for songbirds.  Birds enjoy a water container that gives them a gentle slope where they can wade into the water.  Keep in mind when selecting a birdbath that most songbirds bathe in puddles in nature.  Birds also prefer birdbaths at ground level rather than those that hang or sit on a pedestal.  Putting just a small amount of sand in the bottom of a birdbath gives songbirds a better footing.

Place the birdbath in the shade.  Birds can’t fly well when wet, so a short flight to a bush will provide a safe preening area.  Moving water like that created by a steady drip attracts birds.  Do not add anything chemical to the water to prevent algae from forming.  Wash out the birdbath at least once daily in hot summer weather.  You can offer the birds a clean bird bath and prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water and hatching.  If you refill the birdbath that sits on the ground, night critters will stop by for a drink.  All you have to do is keep the birdbath full.  If yours is too deep, place a rock in the center for birds to stand on.

Squirrels are usually spotted the quickest by people who think they are sick in excessively hot weather.  They lay with their bellies on a limb and let their

legs hang down loosely.  They are trying to beat the heat.  Baby bears often sleep with their bellies down on a limb and their leg dangling.

To cool down quickly birds gape with their mouths open and spread their wings away from their bodies.  Raccoons, fox, and coyotes pant like a dog to cool.  If animals don’t have access to shade and water, they can surfer heat exhaustion and die.

Ground birdbaths provide a source of water for larger birds like Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Blue Jays, Robins, and Buntings.  They will take advantage of a rock in the birdbath to stand on and then ease into the water for a bath.  Hummingbirds enjoy a mister and will play in the water by flying through it.

Trees with mature leaves provide natural air conditioning for birds and other wild critters.  Notice in the heat of the day birds and other animals are scarce.

When birds aren’t at your feeders, they are eating what Mother Nature provides naturally.  Songbirds have varying dietary needs.  A healthy grass lawn supplies Robins and Starlings with grubs and Flickers with ants.  Dandelions are not appreciated by humans and can spring up overnight.  Birds wait for the soft, puffy seed heads stuffed with many small seeds to open.  Buntings, Finches, and Sparrows enjoy dandelion seeds  Goldenrod with its cone shaped flower heads seeds aggressively and feeds Goldfinches.  Milkweed not only feeds Monarch butterflies, but the pods that form

A surprised Cardinal not sure of what is in its environment raises its crest.

when the blooms die are filled with seeds.  Many birds enjoy milkweed seeds.

Polk plants are covered with deep purple berries when ripe.  The plant is poisonous to humans at the summer development stage.  Many birds enjoy the berries without ill effects.  Ragweed that makes many people miserable in late August with sneezes and watering eyes dumps thousands of seeds on the ground.  Doves along with other birds like ragweed seeds.  Poison Ivy, noxious and allergy producing to many humans, has small red berries that are enjoyed by turtles, Robins, Mockingbirds and many other birds.  Hummingbirds enjoy jewelweed flowers for nectar and Rose Breasted Grosbeaks like the seeds.  Pigweed attracts Sparrows and mullein with its tall seed spikes attracts Woodpeckers and Chickadees.  Dock, crabgrass seeds and lamb’s quarters are enjoyed by Cardinals, House Finches and Goldfinches.

 Songbirds will always choose a wild, over-brown field rather than a bird feeder. Mother Nature usually feeds her critters well naturally.

Black bears, fox, raccoons, songbirds and wild turkeys are enjoying ripening blackberries. Blueberries and raspberries are also ripening.  

Keep out plenty of fresh water for bathing and drinking.  Continue to take in the bird feeders by late afternoon. 

May you always hear the whisper of wings.