Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Water Helps To Attract More Birds
May 26, 2018
By Steve Grinley

     During the warmer weather that we are finally seeing, bird baths become lined with goldfinches. Catbirds make regular visits in between visits to the jelly feeder. The orioles are also eating jelly, but they, too, may visit the bird bath on warm days. Robins, sparrows, house finches, and, of course, the squirrels and chipmunks will drink from the bird bath. It provides welcome relief on warm days.

     Water is a great magnet for birds and draws more variety of birds than just feeders. Many birds that don’t eat seed will visit a birdbath for water. Bluebirds, warblers, vireos, and cedar waxwings are among the visitors that you might entice to a bird bath.

     Some years ago, a customer sent me a few photos that she took of birds coming to water in her Amesbury yard. Her husband had set up four or five water features in their yard. Some were just simple bird baths, but there were also cascading creeks, with small water falls and shallow pools, that attracted the most amazing birds! Jen sent me pictures of magnolia warblers, American redstarts, cedar waxwings, Baltimore and orchard orioles, and even woodpeckers drinking, bathing, and enjoying the mist around the running water. Some of these birds never visit feeders, but they were in Jen’s yard!

     Though many birds get their water source from eating insects and berries, many depend on natural water sources for survival. Moving water is especially attractive, not only from the sound, but also the freshness of the water as the motion continually aerates it. In very warm weather, like we had this week, the birds welcome most any water source.

     If you have a bird bath, be sure to keep fresh water in the bowl. Change the water in a small bath daily on the warmest days. There are safe, non-toxic additives that can be put in baths to keep algae from forming and keeps mineral deposits away.

     Adding motion to even the simplest of bird baths will keep the water fresh and help to attract more birds. A dripper can allow drops of water to fall into the bath, causing ripples. A can or bucket suspended over the bath with a small hole punched in it, will allow fresh water to drip into the bath and create motion. Commercial drippers sit in the bath, or hang onto the side and hooks up to your faucet. A simple valve regulates the slow drip into the bath. Fresh water is constantly added, and the added motion is attractive to birds.

     There is also a “Water Wiggler” on the market that runs on batteries (or solar) and can be placed in any bird bath to stir the water, creating motion. The batteries last well over a month with constant use. There are also waterfall rocks, a formed rock with self-contained pump, that can be placed in as little as 1”of water, and it circulates the water in the bird bath. These move the water more quickly, like a miniature waterfall, and creates more sound to attract birds. They require a connection to electricity, but there are also solar fountains available.

     Of course you can create your own natural “bird creek” by excavating a hole, laying down a liner, edging it with rocks and adding a pump to create water flow. Surrounding the water feature with shrubs, which the birds use for protection, will help the birds stay safe from predators while they drink and bathe.

     Hummingbirds also like water, especially in the form of mist. They will often dart through sprinklers and then perch to preen their feathers. A mister, which can sit in a bird bath, sends out a fine mist that hummingbirds love. You can even hang a mister in a shrub or small tree and watch the hummingbirds take a mist bath!

     Along with food and shelter, water is one of the key elements for attracting more birds to your yard. Any water offering, a simple bird bath to an elaborate water feature can bring more birds to your yard. However you offer water, the birds will certainly appreciate it on the warm days ahead.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 23 years of service to the birding community!
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