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Water for the Birds - Drinking and Bathing
By Jayne Rushin

Water--it’s an important element in attracting birds to an area. If there is a creek, lake, or pond close to your backyard, the water supply problem is solved. However, most of us need to create a water source for our yard birds, and even when there is an adequate water supply nearby, we want the pleasure of watching birds bathe or drink.

Water is often more important to birds for bathing and preening than for drinking. Many birds are able to get the moisture their bodies need from the food they eat, but they require a water source to maintain their feathers, especially during migration.

Of course, there are several options when it comes to a water source, but let’s look first at the most obvious and most frequently used backyard solution-----the Birdbath. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of different birdbaths from which to choose.

Before you make a decision about the esthetics of a birdbath, you may want to consider its functional and maintenance aspects. The way your birdbath looks may be important to you but not to the birds. However, there are several practical elements that are important to birds. The bowl of a birdbath should be shallow. Generally, birds want to stand at the edge of a water source to drink and, unless they are ducks, do not want to bathe in deep water. If a birdbath is too deep, you can make it more appealing by placing stones in the water.

When you select a birdbath, be sure to choose one you can handle. Since the standing water in a birdbath promotes mildew, select one that can be cleaned with relative ease. If the bowl of the bird-bath is heavy and unwieldy, you may not clean it as often as needed. A fair cleaning can be accomplished by flushing the bowl with a heavy spray from a garden hose, but the process is easier when the bowl can be removed for cleaning purposes. When mildew persists, a dilute bleach solution is the easiest way to kill it. Be sure to rinse well after using bleach.

During hot summer months, birds appreciate a little shower. Turn on a garden sprinkler, and watch the birds fly through the artificial rain shower. They love it.

Water evaporates quickly when the weather is hot. Drippers work particularly well for birds that may be in your yard but are too shy to come to a birdbath. You can buy drippers designed for the job, or it is easy to make a dripper out of a plastic jug. Hang the dripper from a tree limb, and place a shallow pan or dish underneath. The sound of a dripper attracts birds, but they will approach more readily if there is a protective cover of plant ma-terial nearby. Drippers and misters also can be set up in birdbaths.

We think about water sources when the weather is hot, but it is also an important consideration when temperatures drop. If you live in an area of the state where birdbaths are frequently frozen during the winter, you may want to consider a heating element for your birdbath. Stores specializing in bird supplies can advise you about heating elements as well as misters and drippers. Water in the garden will delight birds and gardeners alike.

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