Nature Q&A: How Do Birds Stay Cool in The Summer?

Guest post by Jennifer Bove. 
Watching_Magnifying_ Glass_LauraWhitehead_160x150Kids are full of questions about the world around them, and they expect parents to have the answers. I’ve been stumped more than once by my kids’ curiosity about nature. (And I’m a biologist!) So, it’s time to get smart—and get ahead of the game. Here are the answers to some common nature questions that your kids might bring to the kitchen table.

1. What are clouds made of?

2. How do birds stay cool in the summer?

3. How do water striders “walk” on water?

Goldfinch_Drinking_JamesMarvinPhelps_219x2192. How do birds stay cool in the summer?

When summer temperatures soar, it’s easy for people to retreat into air-conditioned places to stay cool. But what about wild birds, which don’t have the luxury of air-conditioning?

Birds use several different tricks to beat the heat, taking advantage of their surroundings as well as their own instincts. Check out a few of these brilliant “bird brain” strategies:

Panting: Like dogs, birds can pant to cool down. When a bird pants, it breathes quickly, moving air across the moist surfaces of its lungs, throat, and mouth. This moisture then evaporates, which absorbs heat from the bird’s body. Each time the bird breathes out, some of this heat is carried outside, leaving the bird feeling cooler.

Feather Fluffing: Birds lift their feathers and hold their wings out so that air can reach their skin and carry away some of their body heat.

Resting: Birds will do most of their flying, singing, and eating in the morning and evening, when the air is cooler. During hot afternoons, they spend more time resting quietly in the shade.

Bathing: Birds like to wade in shallow water and splash around to cool off just as we do!

Host a “swimming party” for the songbirds in your backyard with this Splashy Birdbath craft.


Jennifer Bové, mom and former field biologist, is an award-winning contributor to Your Big Backyard® and the editor of three anthologies including Wild With Child: Adventures of Families in the Great Outdoors. Jennifer’s blog is filled with timely tips and family fun. Stop by for a visit at