Backyard Birding Tips: Birdbaths

Robin in birdbath

Many birds that never come to bird feeders or nest boxes visit birdbaths and other water features. Providing water can be a wonderful way to help the birds while enhancing your own enjoyment.

Birdbaths are the simplest way to provide water. Change the water every day or two to ensure that disease-bearing mosquitoes can’t successfully reproduce. Birds discover water more quickly when they hear dripping sounds. If your birdbath is set beneath a tree branch or a pole and shepherd’s hook, you can hang a plastic gallon container with a small hole in the bottom. A slow, steady drip can attract many birds that otherwise wouldn’t be noticeable in your area. Water from a rain barrel is perfect for birds to drink and use for bathing, and allows you to provide water where water conservation is essential.

Male Carolina Chickadee on birdbath

If you are in an area where it’s appropriate to water your lawn, a sprinkler providing a gentle spray may lure in a great many birds, especially if there are nearby perches in secluded places where the birds can preen after bathing. Hummingbirds have even been known to dart in an out of the spray!

Man-made fountains with recirculating water can attract a great many birds. Make sure there are shallow pools with reasonably rough surfaces so birds can keep their footing. Again, finding ways to conserve water, especially with water from rain barrels, is ideal. Never use “gray” water (after people have washed or bathed in it) for birds, because they drink the water as well as bathe in it.

Blue Jay on water fountain
One man created a wonderful birdbath that attracted many birds to his rural home in northern Michigan. He built two cement birdbaths on the ground, one higher than the other. Next to them was a large tub (covered at the top to prevent mosquitoes from breeding), filled with water from his rain barrel. A spigot at the bottom dripped water into the top birdbath; spill from that dripped into the lower birdbath. This water feature was right next to his deck where he could sit and leisurely watch warblers, tanagers, and other beautiful songbirds bathing.
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