Ever wonder where wildlife goes to get the water they depend on for survival? Natural water supplies are of course the obvious first choice but in the face of increasing drought and shrinking sources, that option is not as easy to come by anymore.
Almost all wildlife can be found within a couple of miles of a water source. But as limited sources dry up, animals can be reluctant to leave their only known supply. Rather than searching out for new sources, they stay put and in many cases, die of dehydration.
At home, we may not be faced with the harsh realities of nature’s survival of the fittest, but water shortages are still a reality and so are suburban and urban wildlife. Birds are the obvious consideration. Provide a watering spot for them to enjoy, and you will no doubt take pleasure from it as well.
Even a simple birdbath can attract a number of birds just in the first few hours after you fill it. I have enjoyed many hours watching the birds splash and groom themselves in the small pool outside my office window. I like knowing the water I’ve placed for them is a safe and essential respite for my feathered friends.
If attracting birds to your backyard habitat is important to you, here are a few things to know will make the experience more enjoyable for you and the birds.
Provide shallow water that birds can easily drink from and bathe in. Envision birds, splashing in puddles after a rain. Birdbaths are the obvious choice, but even a shallow ledge just a few inches deep in a water garden or a shallow stream serve the purpose. This way you may attract varieties of birds that need a ground-level water source.
Other birds, such as those that visit a feeder, like chickadees, finches, and cardinals, often feel safer from a loftier position of two to three feet, especially if there are hiding places for the enemies that prey on them. The additional height gives birds an advantage because it’s harder for them to take to the air when they’re wet.
But a fancy water feature is not necessary. The most basic, concrete birdbath on a pedestal works great to draw those birds with preferences for a water source at greater altitudes!
A flat rock, placed just in the center of a bird bath, can create a welcomed island of safety for birds as they survey their surroundings from a slightly more secure position. A flat stone placed just so its top is at the water level is an ideal height.
The sound of running or dripping water is irresistible to birds and providing it will afford you the best chance of attracting their attention. Specially made drippers can be attached to the side of birdbaths or water features if you can’t supply the sound in any other way.
There also exist “misters” that spray a fine mist on plant leaves for birds that bathe by rubbing themselves against wet leaves such as hummingbirds or warblers. But don’t worry; they use far less water than sprinklers although they work in much the same way. Included in the array of bird attracting accessories are battery operated “wigglers” which keep the water in constant motion. These not only help keep the water from becoming stagnant but the agitating action acts as a mosquito deterrent as well.
Water features on a somewhat larger scale such as a small pond or waterfall are magnets for attracting various other forms of wildlife. Within weeks, you’ll likely find raccoons, turtles, toads, frogs, hawks, owls, herons, butterflies, dragonflies and of course more birds, creating a fascinating mini-water ecosystem.
And don’t forget that once frozen, these water sources might as well be dried up. In areas of the country where the water freezes, look for bird bath heaters and de-icers. No matter what time of year, a fresh water supply is necessary and appreciated.