How do birds drink? A robin takes a mouthful of water and then tips its head way back to send the water down its gullet. Pigeons are among the few birds that can suck in water with their heads down. Swallows and swifts skim a beakful of water on the wing. Gulls like this Western Gull can even drink salt water. If you have a birdbath, be sure to keep it clean. The birds' health is at stake.
How Birds Drink
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
[Hot summer sound]
The dog days of August bring hot, sultry weather to much of North America. Just step outside, and you’re already looking for a cold drink. [Sound of ice cubes clinking in a glass, and a satisfied ”aah” after a swig]
Birds need liquids, too. Some birds can go a long time without drinking, even in sweltering habitats. They metabolize water from even such dry foods as seeds, and reabsorb fluids internally rather than excreting them.
Other birds eagerly seek out water on hot days. Songbirds, like robins, find water at a stream or birdbath. [American Robin song] A robin takes a mouthful of water, then tips its head way back to send the water down its gullet. Pigeons [Sound of pigeons] drink differently. They’re among the few birds that can suck in water with their heads down.
Swallows and swifts drink with enviable grace. [Tree Swallow song] Gliding low across a pond, a swallow tilts its wings upward, lowers its head to the water’s surface, and skims a “beakful” of water on the wing. And they make it look so easy. [Tree Swallow song]
Keep your birdbath full, yes, but keep it clean, or the birds could be picking up a disease with that mouthful of water.
To learn more, begin with a visit to our website birdnote.org. I’m Mary McCann.
Support comes from Sasquatch Books, announcing BirdNote, the Book. Full of illustrations and stories of 100 birds. More at SasquatchBooks.com.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. American Robin song recorded by W.L. Hershberger. Rock Pigeon calls recorded by A.L. Priori. Tree Swallow song recorded by G.F. Budney.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org August 2018 Narrator: Mary McCann
ID# drinking-01-2008-08-07 drinking-01b