Birds need water just as much as they need food. In the same way we use water in a variety of ways, so do birds. Beyond quenching their thirst and rehydrating, water helps birds preen, clean their feathers and even remove parasites.
It is difficult for birds to find water in the wild, especially in the summer months. To attract birds to the yard, it is better to provide them with water rather than food. We call this practice birdscaping. Many birdscaping tactics include adding new bird feeders, flower beds, shrubs, and materials for nesting. While these are all great elements, providing water should be at the top of the list. In fact, it could be one of the most important additions to the yard in the eyes of visiting wildlife!
The biggest benefit? Water is incredibly inexpensive and one of the best ways to attract a wider variety of birds to the yard. While not every bird will need the food that is offered, they do all need water for one reason or another! When clean water is offered, there may be visitors that were never expected!
Times of Abundance
Food is another matter entirely. In the spring and summer, life is often exploding in backyards. There are plants blooming, growing and creating seeds and fruits. Insects emerge from their winter shelters and reproduce.
Finding clean water, however, can be much more challenging. Puddles can be filled with oil that leeches off the roadways. Streams and rivers can collect toxic runoff. And for wildlife, the weather is entirely unpredictable – they can’t rely on rain to help them survive. By providing birds with a waterer, bird bath or other feature, it will ensure they get the cleanest water available
In the winter, unfrozen clean water can be even more difficult to find. In the coldest climates, rivers and lakes are entirely inaccessible. If it is difficult to keep the water unthawed, have a plan to rotate a waterer each day – remove the frozen waterer and replace it with one that’s thawed inside the house.
Keep the bird baths and ponds unfrozen with heaters. Another option is to place a heated brick on a frozen bird bath. The brick will unthaw the water gradually and make a great perch as well!
Worried that wet birds will freeze in the winter? Don’t be! Wet birds won’t freeze– all those feathers make for great insulation. Further, birds are smart enough to know when to get wet and when to stay dry.
What is the best water feature for birds?
There are many options for bringing water to the wild birds in the neighborhood. Some are simple, some sophisticated. Whatever is decided, the birds will appreciate it.
- Bird baths — They can easily be filled with water. Birds will get a lot of use out of it – some will use it as a bathtub and some will drink from it. Since bird baths are so popular, there is a huge range of styles and prices for them. A fancy concrete bird bath can cost hundreds of dollars. A plastic one could be purchased for under $20. Regardless of the price, there are a few things to consider when adding a bird bath: The basin should be between 1 and 3 inches deep and non-slippery. It should be placed in an open area so birds can see it and be able to watch for predators. Finally, it should be easy to clean and fill – don’t place it too far away from a hose! Remember: A dirty bird bath can be a breeding ground for disease and parasites, so cleanliness is very important!
- Mister – These devices attach to a hose or pond pump and spray a fine mist into the air. This allows birds to fly through the spray prior to preening. For homeowners, misters can get expensive really quickly – they’ll definitely add to the water bill even if it is on a timer. If attached to a pond pump, it will help the water from going stagnant, but be aware that it can also increase evaporation rates.
Still there’s no denying that birds love misters.
- Pond — If there is a man-made garden pond, birds will use it in the same way they would a bird bath. If there is a large fish or turtles in the pond – watch them carefully – they may nip at visitors’ toes! Beyond that concern, a pond can be a great help to the birds! The natural setting will also attract insects, which many birds use to supplement their diet.
- Moving water – Another great bird-attracting water feature is a waterfall or fountain. Man-made waterfalls are operated by a pump that recycles water, just as a fountain does. In fact moving water, by far, is the biggest attractant for birds – it’s easier to spot (and hear) from a distance. Plus, moving water implies that it’s fairly clean. With that in mind, make sure the water in the fountain or waterfall gets replenished! Clean water is a must!
- Bird waterers – What is a bird waterer? A waterer is a device much like a seed feeder, although it dispenses water rather than seed. The waterers provide birds with a place to get a drink or have a bath. Perky-Pet® offers these innovative products in several different styles – including the easy-to-use Top Fill, which can be refilled with a filtered lid.
Keeping a Water Feature Clean
Cleaning a bird bath, waterer or other water feature should be part of a regular outdoor routine. Since water is involved, it’s easy for them to become contaminated and pose a danger to visiting birds. After all, one sick bird that comes in contact with a bird bath can spread disease to any other bird that uses it afterwards. Likewise water that’s left to stagnate can harbor mosquitoes.
To clean any water source, the simplest thing to do is change the water. If there is any built-up grime or debris, scrub the object with warm, mildly soapy water and rinse thoroughly. We recommend not to use the dishwasher because the detergent used in dishwashing detergent could to be too harsh and leave residue.
Cleaning ponds and landscaped waterfalls are another matter entirely. The best way to keep such natural features clean is to keep the water moving with a fountain, filter or pump. For further cleaning methods, consult a local landscaper or garden center.
Make the Space a Place for Birds
A supply of water definitely increases the value of a backyard habitat. An all-inclusive retreat for birds and other wildlife can be created while establishing a perfect setting to observe their behavior.
Whether seeing birds splash in a bird bath or drink their fill at a bird waterer, providing drinking and bathing water is just as important as a steady supply of bird seed.
Not only do the birds benefit from the thoughtfulness, but there is will also benefit from seeing birds that may not normally visit the backyard!