I was going to call this post ‘Hot birds’ but thought there’d be too many disappointed googlers, though maybe some would enjoy looking at a refreshingly different site than they’d envisioned!

Last week’s weather was hot in many parts of Australia and here in Melbourne we had four successive days where the temperature reached 43, 42, 44 and 44 degrees Celsius. Hospital admissions increased, roads were melting, train speeds were reduced for safety as tracks expanded. People and pets struggled to stay cool. Car seats became too hot to sit on, candles drooped in windows, my laundry dried in the basket before it reached the line … and the wildlife suffered.

 Striated Thornbill - Kim WormaldStriated Thornbill – before bathing
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/160, f/5.6, ISO 200, focal length 390mm


This heat-stressed Striated Thornbill was one of many species that cooled itself by dipping into water. It’s bill is open due to the heat, it was panting not singing. Striated Thornbills are just 10cm from end to end and weigh only 7g, which doesn’t leave much in the middle, it is miraculous that any small birds can survive such extreme temperatures.


Eastern Spinebill - Kim WormaldEastern Spinebill – after bathing
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 400, focal length 310mm


This beautiful little spinebill took several dips into the water to cool down. Eastern Spinebills are tiny honeyeaters measuring just 16cm and weighing 11g.

During a previous heatwave a family of Australian Wood Ducks were panting at the end of my long driveway. I stupidly thought how much they’d benefit from a fine mist of water so loaded myself up with a 16lt fire-fighting knapsack and ventured into the 45 degree heat. I crept towards them before stopping at a safe distance and pumping a fine mist in their general direction, hoping to see them move towards it but instead they flew away. I’d made things worse for them and on top of that I was ridiculously hot. I stood there spraying water on myself when a car pulled into the driveway, luckily it was one of my girls and when she stopped laughing she gave me a lift back to the house.

These days I just make sure the bird baths are filled with fresh water, I add extra bowls around the property and fill the trough. Birds need to wet their feathers to reduce body temperature, this makes flight difficult so I place rocks or branches into the water so the birds can safely reach dry land. I like having bird baths where I can see them from my study window, but they seriously affect the amount of work I get done.

Happy birding, Kim



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16 comments to Heatwave

  • John’s Law 1:Every fake tree must have a childs wading pool close by.

  • I’ve relocated the bird pool to the corner of the block. Near to the filling tap & two fence sides for added protection. I’m thinking of a fold-up folddown canopy type arrangement like seen at the Rod Laver tennis arena. To hot for me to do any work on it to today but smiled as they started to use the pool 🙂

  • hello kim
    i ve done a good break during 2 week in mountains, it s my prefered holidays =))
    i ve work to see all the post of the blogs i m following lool
    it s nice pictures you have taken, both birds have a good pose for you, close and sharp enougth, a big bravo of course =)))
    see you soon, and happy birding ☺

  • Alyssa

    Poor things! I’m glad you have such a bird friendly garden, I’m sure they appreciated the dip. Beautiful photos and so detailed!

    • lirralirra

      It is upsetting to see the wildlife struggle in the heat and good to be able to ensure there is lots of water around the place. I’m glad you enjoyed the images, thanks for commenting!

  • The birds are still gorgeous even if they are panting. It is the opposite here, we are having arctic temperatures. Supper cold, wind and snow. I think I would rather have the heat.. Your photos are wonderful, great post. Have a happy weekend!

  • I think I might do a series of photos as it develops. I am the lucky one to have them as my friends 🙂

  • Thank you Kimberly, Sadly no trees to provide shade, it is close to the tap for easy filling. Sits in a corner, of the block.

    • lirralirra

      Hmm, then how about a large pot plant? Or a fake pot plant that you create with shade cloth? Although any kind of covering would help decrease evaporation. Let me know what you end up doing John and how well it works. The birds are lucky to have you caring about them.

  • I’ve treated all my avian friends to a childs wading pool. No more than 4 inches of water at any given time due to some newly drilled holes. It evaporated after filling in 51 minutes last thursday? So I am to build a shade covering for it. Any ideas?

    • lirralirra

      Hi John, what a beaut idea to set up a ‘pond’ for your birds! Have you got any trees/shrubs where you could nestle it in dappled shade, with a couple of biggish branches in the water so they can hop onto a perch to shake before flying? I think that plants would work better than a shade covering as the birds like to hide amongst foliage between dips. You’ve got me eyeing our clam shell and drill, it’s a great idea.

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