Monday, September 22, 2008

The Pleasure Of Bird-bathing

When we think of attracting birds to our yards, we think of bird feeders. To be sure, they do bring many species within viewing distance. But birds are also attracted to water. And they especially appreciate bird baths this time of year because of heat and dry conditions. A large population of juvenile birds and the start of migration season will bring even more to bathe. In addition, there are many species that dine on insects and would never frequent a seed feeder. So the addition of water features will attract more such as flycatchers, mockingbirds, tanagers, thrashers, thrushes, vireos and warblers.

There are many kinds of baths available on the market: bowls and dishes, puddles and fountains, some suspended and some set on the ground. With a little ingenuity, you can make your own from a tray, garbage can lid or a Frisbee. Any type of bath will attract birds, but some species prefer particular structures and bath placement. To attract a diversity of species, consider more than one type of bath.

The most popular type of bird bath with humans is the bowl or dish on a 3' pedestal, perhaps because they function well as landscape ornaments. Fortunately, they are popular with many birds, too. They readily attract cardinals, catbirds, chickadees, doves, finches, goldfinches, mockingbirds, nuthatches, orioles and sparrows.

Dishes or bowls set on the ground or partially buried are especially popular with ground birds such as quail. But they also attract doves, juncos, robins and sparrows.

Multi-level pools and fountains can have the added attraction of moving water powered by recirculating submersible pumps. These types of baths draw buntings, cardinals, catbirds, cedar waxwings, chickadees, doves, finches, flycatchers, goldfinches, grosbeaks, mockingbirds, nuthatches, orioles, sparrows, titmice, thrushes, vireos and warblers.

Moving water can also be provided by a simple dripper or a garden hose with a water fountain placed above a bowl, dish or shallow pool. The Water Wiggler is a useful battery-operated device that provides movement by gently agitating the water. The sound of the water attracts birds likes doves, juncos, mockingbirds, quail, robins, sparrows and towhees.

Even a small hanging cup will attract a few little birds like chickadees, finches and titmice for a drink.

Hummingbirds seem like they're always on the move. Just as they eat in flight, they bathe on the wing. To please them, set up a mister near your hummingbird feeder or over your pedestal bath. They'll fly to and fro through the mist, then perch somewhere in a tree to preen and dry.
Keeping bird baths is a simple and pleasurable task. Here are a few tips:
  • Provide clean water. Still water may need to be replaced daily since it can become stagnant in the heat. Flowing water may be freshened less frequently.
  • Refill the bath before it becomes dry. This is always important, but especially so if you are running a submersible pump.
  • Maintain a shallow depth. Water more than 2" deep is too deep for the little creatures. They want to bathe, not swim.
  • Provide non-slip footing. Plastic and glazed ceramic baths my have slippery surfaces. You may improve them by creating small islands or shoals of pebbles in the center or around the edges.
  • Extend the bathing season by adding a thermostatically controlled water heater.
So, while the time is best, set up a bird bath near your home. The birds will show their appreciation by providing you with an educational and entertaining experience.

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