We’ve had our fair share of blazingly hot days this summer. Well, duh, Sean, you do live in a desert city. Yes, I know, but trust me, even knowing what’s coming down the pike doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Ask the local birds. A few of them have ended up needing assistance; obviously, they haven’t been following the experts’ advice to remain in the shade and stay hydrated. I’ve seen it before — when I was in my early 20s, we had one day where the temp hit 123 F (50.5 C), and it was so hot that the birds outside of where I worked just sat in the shade with their wings spread and mouths agape. You could walk right up to them, and they wouldn’t fly away. It was like they were thinking, ‘It’s so hot if you’re going to eat me, just get it over with.’ We took cups of water out to pour over the poor wee bastards.
This year has been nowhere near as bad as last summer, when we had the hottest year on record in Arizona (143 days with triple-digit temps). We beat the record for the number of days that equaled or exceeded 110 F (43.3 C). And it wasn’t even close. The old record was 33 days, and in 2020, we had 53 days. It was like living in an oven where the timer had been set for two months. It was so bad, we didn’t even experience our annual monsoon. So, this year has been better, but still, waking up and seeing an Extreme Heat advisory on your phone screen sucks.
The first sign it would be unbearably hot for the avian set was when a momma finch brought her three fledglings onto my back patio and left them there in the shade while she went out to get them food. The poor little buggers huddled below the Houseguest’s patio door, where presumably it was a bit cooler. I ended up putting out a small bowl of water and cracking the patio door so they could enjoy some AC and even took the Houseguest up on the loan of her fan and pointed it out the door. It was like baby bird daycare as momma finch brought them back three days in a row.
Then, one day, a week or two later, the Houseguest was leaving around 11 a.m. (it was already roasting out) when in alarm, she came and got me saying a peach-faced lovebird was sitting next to the front door, a highly unusual situation — I’ve never seen one on the ground in the front yard. We both went out, and sure enough, the little green guy was sitting there and wouldn’t fly away, though if we got too close, he’d flutter a few inches away. Now, we’d recently had a couple of cat-caused casualties in the backyard (I’ll post about that later), so we were at our wits end when it came to bird drama. We’d also recently had to drive a baby dove to a Phoenix rehab facility. Its parents had set up a nest on one of my portico columns, and the baby kept ending up on the ground, which was a drop of about 8 feet, and the Houseguest kept putting him back (he looked dead from dehydration the first time but recovered). Turns out he had spraddle legs (a correctable deformity that makes it impossible to stand properly) and needed help, so we finally took him in.
I didn’t want this lovebird croaking next to the front door, but I didn’t want to have to take him to the rehab place if I could help it. First off, it’s about 20-something miles away, and second, I doubted I could catch him without injuring him or giving him a heart attack — plus, I didn’t want to separate him from his flock. The Houseguest at first thought he might be sick. She had been harping on about an impending outbreak of killer bird disease ever since we found the dead birds (that we didn’t realize at the time was the cat’s dirty work). Birds will happily bathe (and poop) in their drinking water, and I was failing to scrub the ceramic dish to the Houseguest’s insane Zoroastrian standards of cleanliness.
“Maybe he’s too hot,” she wondered. She had a point – the lovebird was against the wall like the finch fledglings. The Houseguest had to leave for work, so I was on solo bird duty. I went and grabbed the lid from an empty plastic tub (the Houseguest’s fake butter spread– I only eat real butter). I dribbled water on the lid and put it outside near the lovebird, who was obviously nervous with this giant a mere foot or so away. I had to get back to work in Nerd Central, but I did check on him periodically. One time, when I went out the front door, he was right underfoot and surprised me with a loud cheep. Apparently, it was cooler there, and he waddle-ran back to his original spot. But it was still hot, so I decided to see if I could help out a bit more. There was a long narrow window next to him that I decided to open to let some of the cool air escape. Then I went back to my office. The next time I went to the foyer, the lovebird was clinging to the window screen, enjoying the free air conditioning.
“You realize my AC bill is going to go up,” I said.
He responded with a few cheeps, which I translated as “I appreciate it, dude.”
Anyway, when I checked on him later, he appeared to have cooled down enough and had flown away.
Concerned that there might be more bird heat stroke, I went out and bought a misting tube that I could attach to my hose to provide some relief to the backyard bird population as the temps soared. My coworker, Jan, had recommended setting one up, so I ran to Lowe’s that evening and bought one.
The Houseguest found an article about lovebirds cooling off at Arizona State University — it seems that lovebirds in AZ already know about AC. While they are native to the warm climes of southern Africa, the Arizona summer, exacerbated by all the concrete and asphalt, gets a tad too warm for them, so they have to figure out how to regulate their body temperature, however they can.
Inquiring minds want to know
So do you have any interesting animal rescue stories or ones where you made them feel a bit more comfortable?