Northern New Mexico birds

Keeping birds happy, healthy in the heat

By Anne Schmauss
For The New Mexican
Posted 8/16/18

Bird activity at local backyards has been strong this summer. Hummingbird activity in particular is off the charts right now. Here are a few mid-summer frequently …

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Northern New Mexico birds

Keeping birds happy, healthy in the heat

Posted

Bird activity at local backyards has been strong this summer. Hummingbird activity in particular is off the charts right now. Here are a few mid-summer frequently asked questions and answers.

Question: What can I do to help birds survive this heat?

Answer: Water is vitally important when it's extremely hot and a bird's ability to regulate its body temperature becomes stressed. Birds do not sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system. So when temperatures rise, a bird's respiration rate increases, sometimes to the point that it can be seen panting like a dog. This activity dehydrates birds and increases their need for a reliable source of water to replace lost fluids.

Question: Will I attract more hummingbirds if my feeder has lots of feeding ports?

Answer: Ironically no. Hummingbirds are very territorial around feeders. Usually you'll attract more hummingbirds at multiple small feeders with few ports than with one large feeder with many ports. Also, small feeders empty more quickly, forcing us to refill and clean them more often. This is good because clean feeders with very fresh nectar attract more birds and are safer for your hummingbirds. Change nectar every two to three days in this hot weather. Use a recipe of four parts water to one part white table sugar.

Question: What do I do about the algae in my birdbath?

Answer: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology suggests that you scrub your birdbath immediately if algae start to grow. Use very hot water and a good scouring brush. I keep a birdbath brush under my birdbath and give it a quick once-over every time I refill the bath, which is daily this time of year. A couple of minutes of attention every day in the summer can prevent algae from being a factor and ensure a fresh source of water for your birds.

Question: Why does my bottle-style hummingbird feeder leak?

Answer: Hummingbird bottle feeders tend to leak in the sun because air trapped in the top of the bottle expands as it warms and pushes the nectar out. This doesn't happen in saucer-style feeders. I usually think it best to place your feeders where you can see them, but in this hot weather, shade is best for hummingbird feeders. So, look for a shady spot near a window.

Question: I don't see hummingbirds drinking at my birdbath very often. Why?

Answer: Hummingbirds do drink from bird baths and other natural water sources, but they get most of their hydration needs met by drinking nectar from flowers and from your feeder.

Anne Schmauss is the co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Santa Fe and she loves to hear your bird stories. She is the author of For the Birds: A Month by Month Guide to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard and Birdhouses of the World.

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