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How Do Birds Drink Water? (with Slomo Video)

Written by Clinton Atkins / Fact Checked by George Dukes

how do birds drink water

Different species have different ways of surviving the heat. But at some point, we all need to hydrate ourselves, including our feathered friends! So, how do birds drink water?

The answer is by the use of gravity! The majority of birds use their bill like a cup of glass to collect mouthfuls of water. They will place their head at the right angle towards their back with some force to push the liquid into their stomach. But there’s an exception!

Listed below are detailed explanations of how birds get water.

Bird’s Mouth Anatomy

Unlike humans with the same mouth anatomy, avians have different bills that serve different purposes. For the starters, let’s differentiate between the beak and the bill. As defined,

  • Bill – the overall “bird’s mouths.” It consists of bones, blood vessels, different kinds of tissue, and the beak.
  • Beak – the “birds lips.” It is a continuously growing external organ with a nostril at the end of the structure.

The variation in a bird’s bill’s anatomy reflects their lifetime’s worth of evolutionary change and survival-related adaptations.

In fact, understanding the size and shape of a beak are straightforward hints for how birds get water. Keep reading for in-depth details about bird beaks.

Different Types of Beaks

birds-drinking-water

After examining birds’ mouth structures, we are ready to discover their function! Here are the 4 common beak sizes and shapes that explain birds drinking water behavior.

  • Conical beaks – these are short coned-shaped, and are flexible for eating seeds and nectars. Such shape include birds of Cardinalis and Purple finches. Oftentimes, you will see these birds drinking in your backyard or birdbaths.
  • Hooked beaks – these are powerful and sharp, specifically built for tearing their meaty target apart. Birds with these beaks primarily hydrate themselves through food and rarely drink water. Some examples are the vultures, hawks, and owls.
  • Probing beaks – these are long and thin, suitable for sipping nectars. Birds coming from this group, such as the hummingbirds and spinebills, don’t drink water as they already get it from their food.
  • Strainer beaks – these are wide and flat with a “strainer” that filters the food particles from water. This is commonly seen in water birds such as ducks, swans, and flamingoes. As expected, they are avid water drinkers.

In a nutshell, types of beaks mirror birds’ diet and water consumption. Thus, some birds will drink from birdbaths, some from bodies of water, and some rarely drink at all.

Positions

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Variations in beak formation influence how birds maneuver their body while drinking water. Listed below are a few specific positions that some birds use when drinking.

  • Tip-up: This is how most birds drink their water and is typical for many small birds and robins. After a mouthful accumulation of water in their bill, they will look up to push the liquid onto their throat by using gravitational force.
  • Tip-down: This method is utilized by doves and pigeons. These birds are special because they can suck! Instead of tilting up, they can squeeze the water into their stomach without the aid of gravity.
  • Tongue expert: Nectar-eaters with probing beaks, such as hummingbirds, use their tongue to hydrate themselves.
  • Submerge then tilt: Similar to tip-up but a bulkier version. The bill is immersed in the water and then tilted up. This is common for birds with bigger beaks and water birds such as ducks.
  • Submerge upside-down: This is rare and special for the flamingoes. These birds suck and touch head while drinking water.

Frequency

how-often-do-birds-drink-water

Needless to say, avians refresh themselves in the way how their beaks are formed. This will lead us to another question, how often do birds drink water?

All birdies, including baby birds drink water. Little chicks are unable to drink water on their own. Therefore their mother provided them with water as well as food to keep them hydrated.

But mature birds can drink on their own, and they replenish their body at various rates. Here are birds worth special mention.

  • Parrots drink water several times a day. If not, they will become dehydrated. Comparable to humans, they can withstand a longer time without food than water.
  • Owls drink water occasionally. They are the total opposite of parrots. Their moisture comes from digested food, so owls do not need to drink water to survive. During the bath, they can sip some water to drink or to clean their feathers.
  • Hummingbird drinking water is quite similar to owls. They do not drink a lot since nectars can meet their water requirements. In fact, they drink nectar as much as half of their weight
  • Pigeons drink water as part of their metabolism. It takes about ¼ cup of water for them to hydrate throughout the day.

FAQ

birds-get-water

How can I provide water for backyard birds?

Providing fresh and clean water for our fellow feathered companions is easy as 123! Birds drink from bowls as long as it is shallow and clean.

Just fill it with clean water and set it in a higher station for their protection. Don’t forget to change the water daily.

However, it might not be as easy in the winter since water can be left frozen. Therefore, it must be covered but still visible for a bird’s eye view.

Can birds drink while on flight?

Though it’s better for birds to drink while staying still, some birds can also drink while flying by swiftly swallowing the water while gliding.

Conclusion

For about 18,000 avian species that exist in the world, it would not be surprising that there will be a wide variety of how do birds drink water.

In this article, we talked about the answer to this question, from bird’s bill anatomy down to their positions as well as their frequency. So the next time you observe them, you might also appreciate how cute and diverse their beaks are!

Besides, discover our other topics that are related to birds’ behavior:

5/5 - (1 vote)
Clinton-Atkins


Clinton Atkins

Author

Hi, I'm Clinton. Rocky and I became friends after a birdwatching trip with our new group. And we have been enjoying every adventure together. When he told me the idea of establishing a site that shares our experiences and fun, I immediately agreed. After trials and errors, here we have Thayerbirding.

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