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Water Is A Bird Magnet

Jul 1, 2008
Here in the southeastern U.S, we're all feeling the effects of the drought, but we can spare a little bit to make our birds happy. Here are some ideas for attracting birds without running up the water bill.

There is no better way to get birds flocking to your yard than a good source of fresh water. A bird's need for water through every season of the year is so strong that even species you never expected will be attracted to a strategically placed water source.

Having a birdbath is an advantage to anyone who enjoys observing nature in general and bird behavior in particular.

Location, Location, Location. The most natural spot for a bath is close to the ground, but water at higher levels not only appeals to some species, it reduces the bird's exposure to cat attacks. Soaking wet birds are no match for feline agility. Putting a birdbath near trees improves security against raptors. Plus, branches are an easily reached perch from which to preen in safety.

Locate your bath in a shady part of your yard. This will keep the water at a cooler, more refreshing temperature in hot weather.

To get birds accustomed to the bath, try placing a feeder within five feet of the bath. Birds will notice the water as they go to the feeder.

Birdbath water should be changed every few days to insure a fresh, clear supply. Birds - excluding pelicans - do not like deep water. One inch to 1.25 inches deep is about the maximum. This depth allows the bird to stand in the water and splash around - and not tread water!

Add motion. Motion on the water's surface or the noise of falling water is like a magnet to the birds. Drippers, misters, and small pump-driven fountains that keep the water moving have the added benefit of preventing mosquito eggs from hatching. Hummingbirds love to zip through the mist created by a mister. Besides hummers zipping through the mist you can attract warblers (who don't normally visit feeders) and many other birds to stop by for a refreshing "leaf bath." Watch how they use the wet leaves as a "wash cloth."

How do birds drink? Most birds, like Cardinals, dip their bills and then tip their heads back to let the water run down their throats. Doves and Pigeons drink by immersing their bills and sucking up the water. Not all birds need to drink water. Hummingbirds, for example, have a largely liquid diet anyway, so they don't drink from birdbaths. But they do enjoy "playing" in the water. Birds that normally inhabit areas with arid conditions can go for long periods of time without drinking.

Water in Winter. Birds need water all year round, particularly in winter, when many of their regular sources are frozen. About 70% of a bird's non-fat body tissue is water that needs to be maintained to avoid dehydration. Birds find some water in natural food sources: insects, berries, and even snow, but when those supplies dwindle, the water YOU supply is even more vital.

Open water in freezing weather will attract as many or more birds as a well-stocked feeder. Birds also use water to keep themselves warmer in winter. By cleaning their feathers and grooming them with natural oils, birds are able to help insulate their bodies for the cold.

You can keep water thawed with a submersible heater placed directly in the water. It's economical and safe, as long as you use a high-quality, outdoor extension cord to plug the heater into an electrical source. The best submersible heaters are thermostatically controlled, so they only operate when the water is near freezing.

In winter, use a rough-surfaced, plastic pan or saucer for a birdbath because ceramic and concrete one, though fine for summer use, will crack easily in frigid weather.

Keeping a birdbath supplied with fresh water is one of the simplest and most effective way of attracting many varieties of birds to your yard - year round!
About the Author
Janet Winter loves her wild birds and delights in providing helpful resources and unique products for feathered friends at WildBirdGoodies.com. She is a web designer, travel agent and writer on many topics including wild birds, babies and pampered dogs.
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