Don’t Forget the Water!

Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

Fresh water for birds is important year round, and as the summer heats up, water is a priority. When temperatures soar, birds need fresh water to avoid dehydration, keep cool and bathe to keep their feathers in good shape.  Fortunately, there are many different ways you can provide fresh water whether you have a large garden or backyard, or just a small space in the city.  The important thing is to have it available all the time, make it attractive to birds and safe for them to use, and keep it clean. Here are some ideas how to do this and what kind of bath to get :

SafetyNo matter what size your outdoor space is, you can always provide water. Make sure that whatever form it is in, it is located in a safe spot away from predators, and that there are bushes or a brush pile nearby for birds to make an emergency exit.  Birds are used to bathing close to the ground, so the best choice is a ground bath. But make sure it’s in a safe place for them to bathe and drink without fear or disturbance.

Keep it CleanBe certain to keep it clean as bacteria can easily form in hot weather and can be detrimental to birds’ health.  This will mean regular cleaning out with water and eliminating the algae that may build up. If the algae is stubborn it’s best not to use a cleaning product as they can be toxic to birds.  A good brush should be able to eliminate the algae with a little bit of work and the spray on your hose.

What Should I Get?

1 – The standard water provider is a bird bath.  You can get baths that hang, sit on a pedestal, on the ground, hang from a railing, made from various materials and in many different shapes.

It’s important that it should be shallow enough so that small birds an easily enter it and not fall in and drown – this is about 3″ deep.  If your must-have bath is deeper, then make sure you have an island or series of platforms which rise slightly above the waterline in it from which small birds perching on them can sip water. It’s helpful to have a couple of levels of rocks or lower platforms in a deeper bath so the small birds can also bathe.

If you have irrigation drippers in your garden, you can add one or two to the birdbath so it automatically fills every time the irrigation system goes on. These are really useful for urban roof gardens.  I use them on my roof deck and they are great as the water evaporates during the day and automatically refills when the plants are watered. Just be sure to keep the bath clean, as auto filling with water can divert you from thinking about cleaning it.  And keep in mind that birds will be using this bath all year round….so contemplate investing in one which is heated, or get a heater to insert into it for the winter.

2 – If you have hummingbirds around or a yard or garden where you can run a hose, invest in a mister.  These small attachments to your hose are hummingbird favorites as its easy for them to bathe this way. And you will bring great joy to the other birds in your yard during the hottest months.  Like jumping through the sprinkler or fire hydrant, everybody loves a good spray in the heat!

3 –  Running water of some kind is especially interesting to birds, and it keeps the mosquito population down, so if you have the space to offer a birdbath with a recirculating pump, try it!  Birds are curious about moving water and it also keeps the water fresher. If you have just a pan bath, there are also small water movers which wiggle the water to keep it in motion.

4 –  If you have a large piece of property, and would like to make a water feature, consider creating a pond.  This is a much more ambitious project than buying a birdbath, but you may attract a greater number of species than what you have now.
For more suggestions, check out this article from Birdwatchers Digest.