Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Birds Need Water as Weather Becomes Warmer
April 09, 2011
By Steve Grinley

     Birds need fresh water to survive just as we do. They need water to drink and to bathe. Water in warmer months also helps birds stay cool just as it does us. So now is the time to dust off and fill that bird bath, or add a new bird bath to your yard or garden if you don’t already have one. Bird baths can be more effective in attracting the greatest variety of birds to your yard. In addition to providing water for the birds that come to your feeders, bird baths also attract many insect-eating birds that don’t usually visit feeders such as bluebirds, warblers, vireos, cedar waxwings wrens and thrushes. Birds will also bring their young to a bird bath during the upcoming nesting season.

     Bird baths are more natural on or near the ground, but some can be hung or placed on a pedestal or pole to keep them away from cats and other predators. Having shrubs or trees nearby for birds to escape to is also a good idea. There are also baths that can attach to a deck railing. Baths should be placed near, but not directly under, feeders. Bird baths that have areas not more than two or three inches deep are best for most birds to bathe. Rocks or sand can be added if your bath is deeper or for better footing in slippery baths.

     Moving water is like a magnet to birds and movement can be created by adding a dripper, mister, waterfall, or a “water wiggler”. The slow drip from a dripper creates ripples that are irresistible to birds. You can make a home made dripper by hanging a pail over the bath with a hole punctured in the bottom to allow water to drip. Commercial drippers attach to your faucet and have a valve that regulates the drip rate. A dripper continually adds a small amount of fresh water to the bath and replaces water that has been splashed out or evaporated.

     A mister creates a fine spray that is particularly attractive to birds on warmer days. Hummingbirds especially love misters. They often like to dart in and out of lawn sprinklers so adding a mister will give them a place to cool off. Placing a mister near foliage allows other birds to take mist baths and provides a rainforest-like environment.

     If you have the time and space, you can create a waterfall creek and pool in your yard that would be most attractive to birds. Some landscapers now specialize in water gardens. There are also self-contained water fall rocks that can be placed in any bird bath to recirculate the water. Most of these need to be plugged in. There are also solar fountains that can be placed in existing bird baths to help move water to attract birds.

     Water wigglers are battery or solar operated and can be placed in any bird bath. They create ripples of water that attract the birds and also help break the surface tension to deter mosquitoes. In fact, any water movement will aerate the water and prevent mosquito larvae from forming on the surface.

     It is important to keep a bird bath clean with fresh water. Water levels should be checked daily and fresh water added as necessary. You should clean a bird bath often depending on its size, location, prevailing temperatures, and the amount of use that it gets. There are now safe additives for bird baths and fountains that will keep them free of algae and mineral buildup.

     We enjoy watching the birds flock to the bird bath that we have outside the store. They will even go to the cement and ceramic baths that we have on display out front after a rain storm. Early morning and late afternoon get the most activity as birds visit to drink and to bathe. We have seen chickadees, sparrows and redwings take a drink and, soon, our catbird will be back and will enjoy bathing. Of course, our resident squirrels enjoy it too!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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