Water. Covering more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface, it’s one of the most abundant and most important substances on the planet. Yet when it comes to backyard birds, it’s not always thought of as high on the list of things to provide. Bird feeders and bird houses are usually right at the forefront of people’s minds and can be found in nearly every backyard, while bird baths and other water features are common but not omnipresent. Despite that discrepancy, providing water for birds is very important and learning to do so effectively isn’t all that hard.
Although any kind of water is an improvement over no water, standing water is generally thought to be ineffective at attracting birds. Moving water, on the other hand, will attract birds both visually – the motion will draw their attention – and sonically, as they will hear and investigate such things as drips and splashes. Because of this, many bird baths either include fountains or bubblers to offset the standing water that could otherwise be ignored by birds. Besides baths – which are generally either a pedestal, a dish or heated – and fountains, there are a few other water features that you can add to your yard, such as misters, waterfalls and coolers.
Clean, fresh water is more likely to attract birds than dirty water, so make sure to keep your water features in tip-top shape. Those with standing water, such as fountain-less bird baths, can be cleaned as often as every day and shouldn’t be cleaned less than once a week. This cleaning, however, should simply involve thorough scrubbing and a change of water, as anything stronger than a diluted disinfectant is likely to be harmful to birds that then come by. Meanwhile, moving water – such as waterfalls – stays cleaner on its own and isn’t as likely to be a breeding ground for parasites and bacteria, so those features won’t need to be as cleaned as often.
Birds can be helped by water features in two major ways – it can give them a place to access drinking water, and it can give them a place to bathe. The need to drink water is fairly obvious, but some of the particulars concerning birds may not be as well-known. Because birds have no sweat glands, they don’t lose as much water during the day and thus don’t need to drink as much. As far as the need to bathe goes – baths not only help to keep a bird cool both inside and out, but can also get rid of debris such as dust, parasites and loose feathers that have attached themselves to a bird’s plumage. It’s extremely important for birds to keep their wings clean and baths are an effective way for them to do so.
Since birds both drink and bathe in the water, it makes sense to set up separate things that allow birds to do each thing independent of the other. Admittedly, bathing in water that others are drinking isn’t a huge deal for the bather – but drinking water that’s been used to bathe either yourself or somebody else, whether you’re a person or a bird, isn’t probably the healthiest of ideas. The solution is to have both a bird bath, such as the Country Garden Solar Bath, and a water cooler such as the Bird Water Cooler in order to keep the bathwater away from the drinking water. The birds in your backyard will undoubtedly be grateful for this split, and as an added bonus, you’ll be able to draw more birds to these two things than you ever could with just one of them.
Water features should be an essential part of a birder’s offerings to backyard birds. Hopefully, this has helped shed some light on why that’s the case. Happy birding!
– By Sean Peick (Guest Writer)
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