Monday, July 25, 2011

Feathered Friends Need Water

One of the best ways to attract birds to a backyard feeding program is to offer a ready source of cool water.  This is especially important during our months of warmest weather.  This need becomes critical in certain parts of the country such as those that are currently experiencing extreme hot weather.  If you do not already offer a fresh source of cool water for your backyard visitors I encourage you to add one.  Not only will fresh water attract birds under normal circumstances ... it is the highly recommended way to attract birds to your yard ... your feathered visitors need your help during  the currently extreme hot weather conditions.

It is interesting to understand why a source of cool water is so important to birds.  David Allen Sibley, author of The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior provides an excellent explanation: "Although birds lack sweat glands, they can perspire through their skin and thus reduce body heat.  Birds can also get rid of excess body heat by panting, which allows water to evaporate from the surface of the air sacs." Continuing, Sibley explains:  "The challenge is both of the above cooling methods are dependent upon a ready source of cool water".

While having a fancy birdbath may be appealing to us, it is not necessary for the birds.  Something as simple as a clay saucer or upturned garbage can lid kept refreshed often with clean, cool water will provide an extra water source during extreme heat as many areas are experiencing now.  However, one thing we know is that moving water attracts 10 times more birds.  There are products that can address this need.  A simple way I've used is to hang a plastic pot for plants above my bird bath.  Before filling with water make a very tiny hole in the bottom so the water can slowly drip into the bath.  Good advice is to start with a really tiny hole as you can always enlarge it if you need more water to drip.  Using this type of container (milk jug or bucket) is a quick way to provide moving water, but you do need to refill the container, as necessary.

If refilling the container might prove inconvenient, products like the Water Wiggler can be put in your bird bath.  The Water Wiggler runs on batteries that make its legs jiggle keeping the bird bath water constantly moving.  The Water Wiggler I use runs on 2 D-cell batteries which keep the Wiggler moving 24-hours a day for 3 months.  Actually, I went a step farther and purchased the Water Wiggler Aurora which provides a gradually changing rainbow of colors casting a soft glow on my deck at night.  The colored light turns on automatically at dusk and glows for 3 hours and then shuts off automatically.  However, only the light shuts off as the Water Wiggler provides continuous water movement as mentioned.

Another appealing way to help songbirds stay cool is a device called the Easy Mister.  It simply screws onto the end of garden hose.  Just hang the hose over a tree limb or garden hook.  The product puts out a fine mist that birds love to fly through and is especially helpful for Hummingbirds. When it is placed where leaves get wet songbirds birds love to take a "leaf bath" by rubbing up against the wet leaves.  It doesn't cost a lot to operate as it only uses one gallon of water per hour.

Please don't forget to provide water for all our feather friends as they truly need and appreciate it.  They'll fill your backyard with brilliant color, intriguing behavior and beautiful song as a thank you.