For several weeks I've been thinking of writing a short blog about using water to attract birds to your yard. It's not that I have anything really new or different to say. No, all of my advice will fall under the common sense category. Rather, such a blog would just really be a great opportunity to publish a bunch of cute pictures of birds playing in the water.
So, you want to put a birdbath in your yard, but what kind should it be? You can spend a lot of money on fancy bird baths, sculpted bird baths, and decorative bird baths. However, the birds really don't care about all that. Once I took the plastic lid to a garbage can, cleaned it up, partially buried it in the ground and filled it with water. It had a bird in it within fifteen minutes. I used it for years until I ran over it with a lawnmower. I also bought a stone two-piece birdbath comprised of a pedestal and a basin. Squirrels and other critters kept knocking the basin off the pedestal. And spilling water softened up the ground enough for the pedestal to keep sinking into the ground. Finally, I dropped the basin to the ground and threw the pedestal away. The birds kept coming.
|This Brown Thrasher is getting the full spa treatment.|
On the other hand, do you really need a birdbath at all? A few years ago I bought a long, narrow hose with a blue attachment that emitted a gentle mist. It was a great playground for birds. They loved the mist and I often felt they were playing as much as bathing in the water. It was so much fun to watch them. Then I noticed that the hose had sprung a series of leaks. Small fountains of water were being "wasted" on the lawn! I tried several kinds of repairs to no avail. Regretfully, I gathered it up, tossed it away, and began searching for an alternative.
Another, smarter person had the same experience. She saw the hose with multiple leaks as an opportunity. She wound the hose through the low-hanging branches of a live oak tree and created an extremely successful spa for birds. It has a pool, a mud bath, several showers, and the equivalent of a theme park's worth of water sports. Here's what it looks like:
You can just see the blue mist spray in the upper left hand corner. The rest of the hose winds through the branches and leaks everywhere. Look at the dip in the hose on the right. Here's a close up of it:
In this configuration, water cascades through the leaves, drips from the branches, and pools on the ground. I don't know if it's the sight of the water or the sound of it dripping in the pools, but the birds LOVE it. She can turn on the water, and within minutes there are birds frolicking everywhere. Here are a few pictures from "The Spa." In the first, check out the birds in the queue waiting for their turn. One Cardinal is in the shower, another is just behind, and a Summer Tanager waits patiently:
Eventually, the Tanager got her turn:
Another important aspect of The Spa is that the over-hanging branches and the canopy of the huge oak offer a protected area. Birdbaths that are in the middle of an open yard may be tempting for birds, but they also expose birds to their predators. This Pileated Woodpecker (below) seems quite relaxed.
This Swamp Sparrow couldn't find a swamp, but the mud bath seems to be doing the trick. Click on the photo and look at the large version. You can see droplets of water on its back.
Meanwhile, a House Finch had moved into the pool.
You want warblers? Here's a Black-and-White Warbler drinking from the rivulets between the pieces of bark.
And a Northern Parula enjoying a cool shower.
On a recent weekend, the spa also hosted a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Bay-breasted Warbler.
Of course, when I say ALL birds need water, I mean ALL birds:
Suddenly, there were no other birds to be seen. But once the Cooper's Hawk left, The Spa reopened for business:
So, folks, if you want to see lots of birds in your yard, use moving, cascading, pooling water. You'll love the results and you'll be entertained for hours on end by the birds in your own version of The Spa.