Providing Water Helps
When you are devising a long-term water source for your garden, plan for the type of water feature that birds adopt most quickly: a shallow, rough-bottomed pool of still water. Birds are wary of water that is more than 2″-3″ deep. Add a few stones that emerge from the water for smaller birds, and butterflies, to land on.
The surface of the container, where birds enter the water, should be rough to provide sure footing. Textured materials appropriate for birdbaths, streams, and pools include sand, stones, pebbles, and concrete. A lip or perch at the edge where birds can alight before entering the water is an advantage. The birdbath should deepen very gradually, to no more than 3″.
Most songbirds can’t swim, so they seek shallow water with sure footing. Most birds prefer water in a spot in a clearing, so position it in a sunny spot, away from trees and shrubs. That way, bathing birds can keep an eye out for predators and will have time to fly for cover.
If cats roam your neighborhood, avoid close shrubs and overhanging limbs which will give the cats cover for watching the birds. Where hawks are more of a menace than cats, close cover over water is a necessity to allow birds a quick escape from danger. Some species, such as thrushes and quail, prefer open space interspersed with dense shrubbery, at ground level.
A natural depression in the ground that stays moist is natural-looking and a good alternative to a bird bath. You can keep it filled with a hose in dry weather. Be sure to place the birds’ water source where it is visible and convenient for you, keeping in mind your views from indoors too.
Water for birds should be as close to a faucet as possible, for refilling and cleaning. Empty and scrub the birdbath every 2-3 days in the summer, to prevent algae and bacteria from fouling the water. When water is scarce, birds will seek it wherever they can find it – a bucket, an air conditioning outlet, or a pet’s water dish.
How you decide to provide water for birds will depend on the time and money you wish to spend, and what you find appropriate and beautiful for your yard. The sound of gently moving water is extremely attractive to birds. Audible water in the garden can be provided by a simple dripping hose or by a sophisticated water fall. Remember that a little water music goes a long way. A thunderous waterfall or a huge, erupting fountain will frighten more birds than it attracts. Small drips, tinkles, and bubbles are what birds like.
Providing water for birds during the frozen winter is as important to them as food, and it is relatively easy now that birdbath heaters are widely available.