Birds enjoy sunbathing as much as humans

The RSPB said it receives up to 100 calls during hot spells, from people concerned at seeing birds lying with their feathers and wings exposed to the sun.

But they have said it is nothing to be worried about, the animals are simply sunbathing.

Studies from the University of New Mexico suggest that birds sun themselves after heavy rain, which can cause them to suddenly lose their feathers, beacause it helps to soothe their skin.

It is thought the sun helps straightens the birds' feathers and helps the preen oil to spread through.

Gemma Rogers from the RSPB said: "People become concerned about these birds, because they seem to have a glazed expression in their eyes, because they are not focusing on anything, because they are entranced by the sun."

"They don't let themselves overheat at all. The feathers would protect them as well, so I don't think they need the factor 30."

The biggest concern, she said, is that predators will attack while the birds enjoy a peaceful moment in the sun.

"They are on the ground, they have their heads up, their legs wide open, but usually they fly away once a predator approaches. Their hearing is very acute as well, so even if they aren't focusing they will hear something coming."

While blackbirds are the most commonly spotted sunbathers, pigeons and sparrows enjoy the sun also.

Sparrows also appear to enjoy going to the beach as much as humans, according to Miss Rogers.

"Sparrows often find a hot sandy area as well to have a sand or dust bath. That looks really strange. They bed themselves down and get in there and cover their feathers."

But it is thought the dust soaks up excess preening oil and removes dry skin and mites.

While they may enjoy the heat however, the RSPB called on people to put water out to stop birds overheating and becoming dehydrated.

"We have had a lot of water for them this summer, but during hot spells they do need to cool down," Miss Rogers added.

A news from , 18 August 2009

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