Most people understand the importance of feeding garden birds and put out regular food for them, but fewer people put out water. You might think that birds don’t need that much water but in actual fact there are quite a few reasons why adding water to your garden can really help them.
Water is actually an essential part of a healthy birds life. They use water for all sorts of different reasons and it can be a huge help throughout the year, although really key during the Winter & Summer months. We suggest keeping water available in your garden all the time and making sure to check it is always fresh and accessible for birds.
But why do they need it? Her’s why:
Like all animals, birds need water to survive. Though they can extract some moisture from their food, most birds drink water every day. Birds have no sweat glands, so they need less water than mammals. However, they do lose water through respiration and in their droppings. Most small birds need to drink at least twice a day to replace the lost water.
Insect eating birds will get a little more moisture from food, if they are eating live food than seed eating birds. Seed eating birds have a really dry diet and drink a lot more food.
Birds drink in different ways, swallows scoop, but most garden birds like Robins and Tits rock backwards and forwards drinking from the water you provide — it is super important to have some sort of place for them to stand and stay safe and don’t overfill this can cause drowning.
It is all about looking good and keeping those feathers in tip top condition. Birds also use water for bathing, to clean their feathers and remove parasites.
After splashing around in a bath for a few minutes, a bird usually perches in a sunny spot and fluffs its feathers out to dry. Then it carefully preens each feather, adding a protective coating of oil secreted by a gland at the base of its tail. It is basically the same as us having a shower and brushing our hair .
Birds tend to do this once a day to keep their plumage in good condition. It can be a wonderful thing to watch!
This is a brilliant moment to get a glimpse of during the spring breeding months. Birds will bring their fledglings to the bird baths or water you supply to show them where they can find it. Family outings happen quite often and it may be the only place that new fledglings will know where to find water so it is important to keep the water supply replenished.
Bird Baths are a great way to add water to your garden. Most people think of those concrete garden baths when you say the words ‘Bird Bath’ but in actual fact a bath that mimics a shallow puddle is much better for birds. The concrete ones, although they look attractive, are not actually that practical. They can be a little too deep and the concrete isn’t the easiest to clean.
When you’re choosing a birdbath, look for one with a basin that you can clean easily. It should also have a gentle slope to allow birds to wade into the water. You can make your own bath out of a garbage can lid, a saucer-type snow sled, or even an old frying pan.
We created a blog about making your own DIY bird baths — you can find it here
For the ultimate natural birdbath, set up a permanent pool in your backyard. Just dig a shallow hole in the ground and line it with plastic or cement to make it watertight. Plant ferns and other native plants around the pool to make it more attractive. You can add a pump to circulate the water if you want to create elaborate multilevel pools.
Keep it Clean
A key part of providing water for birds is making sure it is fresh & clean. Keeping a bird bath clean helps to prevent birds catching diseases. Make sure you are regularly removing debris, algae and giving it a good clean (that’s why it is so important to choose a good bird bath that’s easy to scrub!).
Don’t let the water go stale either, during raining seasons the water will refresh itself a little more but during the Winter and Summer make sure you are adding fresh water daily or add a pump to the system to keep it moving and keep it fresh!
Keep it Ice Free
Birds need water whether it is cold or hot, they drink all the time. Keeping your bird bath ice free in the winter is pretty important, not only is the ground sometimes frozen so birds don’t have natural solutions they may come to your bird bath expecting to see water.
It can be difficult to stop them freezing over but there are a few options:
- Adding candles (sheltered from wind) under the bird bath will add some heat — especially if you’re using a bin lid bird bath like ours
- Add a small floating ball — this will move around and keep some of the bird bath frost free.
- Add an immersion heater to your bath
- You can also get solar powered bird baths like Solar Sippers that use the suns rays to stop them freezing over!
Maintain the Bath & you will be rewarded
The key to attracting a large number of birds is to keep your bath full of water at all times. In the natural environment, most sources of shallow water are intermittent. Although puddles form after a hard rain, reliable pools are rare and birds will travel great distances to visit them. Keep your birdbath full and you’ll be well rewarded.