Birds need water for drinking and bathing. Water is particularly important during the winter when natural supplies may be frozen and in dry, hot weather during the summer when water can be hard to find.
Birds have no sweat glands, so they need less water than mammals. However, they do lose water through respiration and in their droppings. Most small birds need to drink at least twice a day to replace the lost water.
Birds get the liquid they need from their food and by drinking. Many insectivorous birds get most of their water from food. Seed-eating birds have a dry diet and they do need to drink more.
Water is freely available to small birds at the shallow edges of ponds and streams. They may also drink water droplets that form on leaves, especially if they live in woodland. Aerial species such as swallows and swifts swoop down onto a water body and scoop up a beakful of water while still in flight. Very impressive!
Most birds drink by dipping their bill in water and throwing their head back to swallow. Pigeons and doves are able to immerse their beaks and can drink continuously.