During the 80- and 90-degree weather that we had this past week, our birdbath was lined with goldfinches. Our catbird made regular visits in between visits to our jelly feeder. The orioles are still eating the jelly, but I haven't seen them at the birdbath yet. Robins, sparrows, house finches and, of course, the squirrels and chipmunks have been drinking from the birdbath. It is a welcome relief on these warm days.
Water is a great magnet for birds and draws more variety of birds than just feeders. Many birds that don't eat seed will visit a birdbath for water. Bluebirds, warblers, vireos and cedar waxwings are among the visitors that you might entice to a birdbath.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jen in Amesbury sent me a few photos that she took of birds coming to water in her yard. Her husband, Mike, had set up four or five water features in their yard. Some are just simple birdbaths, but there are also cascading creeks, with small waterfalls and shallow pools, that attract the most amazing birds! Jen has sent me pictures of magnolia warblers, American redstarts, cedar waxwings, Baltimore and orchard orioles and even woodpeckers drinking, bathing and enjoying the mist around the running water. Most of these birds never visit feeders, but they are in Jen's yard!
Though many birds get their water source from eating insects and berries, many depend on natural water sources for survival. Moving water is especially attractive, not only from the sound, but also the freshness of the water as it is continually aerated by the motion. In very warm weather, like we had this week, most any water source is welcomed by the birds.
If you have a birdbath, be sure to keep fresh water in the bowl. Change the water in a small bath daily on the warmest days. There are safe, nontoxic additives that can be put in baths to keep algae from forming and keeps mineral deposits away.
Adding motion to even the simplest of birdbaths will keep the water fresh and help to attract more birds. A dripper can allow drops of water to fall into the bath, causing ripples. A can or bucket suspended over the bath with a small hole punched in it will allow fresh water to drip into the bath and create motion. Commercial drippers sit in the bath or hang onto the side and hook up to your faucet. A simple valve regulates the slow drip into the bath. Fresh water is constantly added, and the added motion is attractive to birds.
There is also a Water Wiggler on the market that runs on batteries and can be placed in any birdbath to stir the water, creating motion. The batteries last more than a month with constant use. There are also waterfall rocks, a formed rock with self-contained pump, that can be placed in as little as 1 inch of water and it recirculates the water in the birdbath. These move the water more quickly, like a miniature waterfall, and create more sound to attract birds. They come in both a corded model as well as a solar model that operates in direct sunlight.
Of course, you can create your own "bird creek" by excavating a hole, laying down a liner, edging it with rocks and adding a pump to create water flow (as Mike had done). Surrounding the water feature with shrubs, which the birds use for protection, will help the birds stay safe from predators.
Hummingbirds also like water, especially in the form of mist. They will often dart through sprinklers and then perch to preen their feathers. A mister, which can also sit in a birdbath, sends out a fine mist that hummingbirds love. You can even hang a mister in a shrub or small tree and watch the hummingbirds take a mist bath!
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Steve Grinley is the owner of Bird Watcher's Supply and Gift at the Route 1 traffic circle in Newburyport and the Nature Shop at Joppa Flats.