Desert Birds: How Do Birds Drink Water? Part 1

Like all animals, birds need water in order to survive. They need even more water than mammals do, to help fuel their energetic flight. So how do birds, especially ones that live in deserts, stay hydrated?

Desert birds start by avoiding the hottest times day, when they’d lose water through panting. Desert birds also visit rivers, lakes, backyard birdbaths, or other watering holes whenever possible. If you are bird watching in the desert, such water sources are great places to see concentrated numbers of thirsty birds.

Some bird species, however, live far from such water sources. They manage to get most of their water from water-rich foods like fruit, nectar, or insects. Birds have very efficient kidneys that help them save this water in their bodies.

What about desert sparrows and finches, which eat only dry seeds? Their bodies are so good at processing the seeds’ tiny percentage of water that these birds can go through their whole lives never drinking a drop.

When desert birds do need to drink, they may commute long distances to find water. Sand-grouse, pigeon-sized African birds, fly up to 30km, twice a day, to reach water. They not only drink the water, they also absorb it into their specialized, sponge-like belly feathers. They bring this stored water back to their thirsty chicks, sitting in nests up to 30km away from the lake.