Cooling Nested Birds During Heatwave

I have a pair of nesting Mourning Doves that have chosen the top beam of my covered pergola. They successfully hatched one chick this season, but lost the last clutch and single chick to a heat wave. They started over, but next week we are heading into a certainly deadly heatwave. I want to help them keep this clutch. How can I keep them cool? Do fans/breeze actually help birds or is that useless? I don’t know what is safe if a chick has hatched. Pretty sure misters are a no go. I know this is how nature works, but I’m watching it through my kitchen window and want to at least try to help this pair. Thank you for any help!

3 Likes

Is there any sort of shade over the nest?

In Porterville. Swartland wheatfields. HOT! We had 40C in summer when we lived there. Our roof was corrugated metal. Starlings chose to nest where they could squeeze in above the gutter. And they chose the side facing into blistering afternoon sun!

1 Like

Admittedly I’m not a bird expert, but I can’t imagine providing shade could hurt. Assuming the nest isn’t already covered, maybe trying to put up a piece of cardboard or screen to block the sun facing side? I hesitate to suggest putting up a roof or something as that might scare the parents off? Maybe also providing a bowl of ice water or something, though admittedly I’m unsure how the chick drinks (do the parents regurgitate water to it?) Hopefully someone more specialized in birds will be able to give you a better answer; sorry I couldn’t help more :sweat_smile:

2 Likes

I consider all the opinions as above as valuable.
However, nature is nature. Mortality rates of any dove (mourning, laughing, collared etc) are always high and higher in the Summers. We can do very less in this respect. The reduction in Dove population owing to high mortality rate is however compensated by five to six Nesting cycles by them i,e with a higher reproduction rate.
If their nest can somehow be kept a little cooler, it is better but the best way to help them keep cool will be provision of sufficient drinking and bathing water. Doves require more water in scorching summer days. What to do next to protect the babies? Mothers always know best how to keep children safe for all creatures including us.
The Dove chicks will get their drink/food (crop milk) from their mother. Yes, regurgitation- by sticking their beaks into their mother’s mouth. Mother birds are intelligent and smart enough to keep their babies cool.
Instantly I can not show demonstrative pics for Doves but still I am attaching few pictures showing how birds take care of their young ones during summer days in India, if those can help in anyways.


1, 2, 3- Asian Openbill soak the leaves in water to keep the nest and chicks cool (natural AC).
4, 5, 8- Painted Stork and Openbill Stork Mothers standing as ‘Umbrellas’ to protect their chicks from Summer heat.
6. Pelican Mothers regurgitate to feed their babies.
7. Gular Fluttering- Leaving excessive heat by Vibrating moist throat membranes keeping the mouths open (and thus causing cooling by evaporation) to regulate internal temperatures,

3 Likes

This is definitely getting to be a problem for many birds. I used to have a farm where, for over 20 years, Barn Swallows built their clay nests attached to some rafters close to the ceiling. There was no loft above, so heat from the sun made that space quite hot during the day. One summer, there were a lot of deaths of young birds as they got too hot during one of the miserably hot days and a bunch of them jumped out of the nests when they were still quite young and they died – I was at work that day, so came home to discover a lot of dead birds on the barn floor. Rather interesting that the Swallows never nested in my barn again after that episode.
Anyhow, I’m hearing of similar things happening to other birds, and especially young raptors. Also to birds that nest in nest boxes (Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, etc…). A friend who has had Bluebird nest boxes on her property for years has been seeing deaths caused to young when the temperature got really hot. She has since moved all of the nest boxes into shady locations as it’s obvious that increasing heat is going to be a big problem from now on. However, during the year when she found that birds were dying, she took action by putting plastic freezer paks - those things with the blue liquid inside them that you freeze to put in cooler – on the lid of the Bluebird boxes during the hottest hours of the day and that stopped the deaths. She also attached sun umbrellas to shade a couple of boxes and that worked out too – but Bluebirds are one of the species that is very tolerant of human activity around their nest boxes so that strategy wouldn’t suit many bird species. That said, Mourning Doves seem like they might be fairly tolerant. It might be worth thinking of something that could be attached above the pergola – like a sun umbrella located above the nest – and watch to be sure that the parent birds aren’t frightened away by the object.

3 Likes