How to help your garden wildlife in the heatwave

As temperatures soar and we revel in the summer sunshine, our local wildlife could be struggling to cope! Find out how you can help them through the heatwave. 

House sparrow bathing in water - garden birds need fresh water in the heatwave

House sparrow bathing in water - garden birds need fresh water in the heatwave © Ray Kennedy / RSPB


Charities are asking the public to think about putting out a supply of fresh water in their gardens or outdoor space, to help their local wildlife cope with the scorching heat.

“While we sit back and relax in the outside with an ice-cold drink, generally revelling in an unusually sunny weather, our garden birds might not be having such a good time,” says Chris Calow, a wildlife advisor for the RSPB.

“Turning your outside space into a home for nature by doing simple things like topping up your birdbath, creating a make-shift pond from a washing-up bowl or putting down a saucer filled with water could offer a vital lifeline to some of our much-loved garden birds that are already fighting against declines."

Alongside drinking water, birds need water to bathe in order to keep their feathers in good condition. However, as natural water sources dry up, they may struggle to find this vital resource.


If you have hedgehogs in your garden, put out a shallow dish of water for them © Michael Partridge  


Water will also be needed by mammalian garden visitors – the British Hedgehog Preservation Society says that offering fresh water (and meaty pet food) can be a lifesaver for hedgehogs.

It is advised that water bowls should be shallow, and that garden ponds have ways for hedgehogs (and other small mammals) to climb out if they fall in.

Read more: British hedgehogs have suffered a rapid population decline. Here are 10 ways you can save these adorable mammals.

Additional advice from the RSPCA also includes:

  • Cleaning water containers daily and dry them before refilling, in order to reduce the risk of spreading disease
  • Don't place water dishes too close to bushes and trees, to minimise predation from cats and other predators
  • Keep water away from the bird table and other feeding areas to avoid fouling
  • Do not give milk to hedgehogs, only plain, fresh water
  • Top up water levels of ponds, and provide shaded areas for fish
  • Search bonfires before burning garden rubbish
  • Take care when using a lawn-more or strimmer - hedgehogs in long grass may curl up if they feel threatened, and toads tend to squat down instead of running away

If you find an animal in distress (advice from the RSPCA): 

  • If the animal is a wild bird or mammal smaller than the size of a rabbit, the quickest way to get help is to contact a local vet or rehabilitation centre as they will not usually charge for treating wildlife.
  • If the animal is larger than a rabbit, call the RSCPA on 0300 1234 999.


Make sure to clean out and dry water supplies to prevent fouling © Chris Gomersall / RSPB


Read more wildlife news in BBC Wildlife Magazine. Take a look inside the current issue, and find out how to subscribe

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