GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Sandra McNeely comes from a family that loves owning nests for a bird known as the Purple Martin, but as the temperatures rose unusually hot this June at her backyard in Georgetown, problems began happening.
“We were just beginning to find that some of the birds, the babies, were just perishing. It’s akin to being stuck in a closed-up car, and it was just not survivable,” said McNeely.
To keep the birds cool, McNeely and her husband put up a misting hose right next to the nests.
Air misters use a process known as evaporative cooling to cool the air. Basically, it’s not the temperature of the mist that’s cooling the air, it’s the fact the moisture floating around in the air surrounding the nest then gets evaporated, which drops the air temperature.
While these birds were kept safe thanks to some Texas ingenuity, not all birds are as lucky.
“When we have things like climate change and some weird weather, we saw this with the crazy cold weather we had two years ago and then some of this heat, it just puts pressure on some of the resources that [birds] need,” said Nicole Netherton from Travis Audubon.
When it’s hotter and drier than normal, the plants and insects birds need for food become less available.
Placing fresh bird baths can be great to keep birds cool and hydrated, but long-term Netherton expects some birds may have to fly farther north to get the resources they need.
“It’s predicted that birds will start to have to move. Their habitat will change, because they’ll have to be looking for the resources that they’ve evolved to find, and in a hotter world they might not be able to find them in exactly the same spot,” Netherton added.
To draw attention to the importance of bird migration and our role in it, Austin City Council declared World Migratory Bird Day in Austin on the second Saturday in May. Another migratory bird day is celebrated worldwide in October.
If you’d like to help the Purple Martins or set up a backyard nest, McNeely recommends you check out the Purple Martin Conservation Association.