Have you seen birds in your garden lying on the ground with their wings spread and their beaks open? We saw a blackbird doing this in our garden for the first time a few days ago. The awkward angle of the bird’s head and the wings spread out wide initially made us think that it must be injured. In fact, at a glance it looked dead. Nevertheless, after a few minutes it got up and hopped away.
We’ve seen this fascinating behaviour a few more times since then and now we have come to realise that this is basking or sunning. With the exceptionally warm weather we have been having in Ireland for the last few weeks, birds are taking the opportunity to sun themselves.
In such hot conditions, why would birds bask in this way? There are several reasons. Firstly birds need Vitamin D just like we do and sunning themselves helps them to generate it. It also helps to maintain feather health by causing any parasites that might be present to move to cooler parts of the bird, where the bird can preen them away more easily.
In heat like we are having at the moment it is important to provide birds with a source of drinking water. You don’t need anything fancy to do this - in fact, we use a plastic Ikea kid’s dinner plate filled with water – because that’s what we happened to have lying around, but anything will do. Remember to refill your water source daily and also to keep the water clean because bird droppings left in the water may cause the spread of infections.
Have you seen basking behaviour in your garden? Mail us a picture at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll create a gallery.
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Blackbird image (c) Roy & Marie Battell at The Moorhen.