Baths for Birds

Backyard ponds and birdbaths are more important and more active during the summer

06-01-2003 // George H. Harrison

Baths for Birds magazine layout - baltimore oriole 
Photo of Baltimore oriole: © GEORGE H. HARRISON
AT NO OTHER TIME of the year are backyard ponds and bird baths more important, or more active, than during summer days. A combination of heat, dryness and the addition of young birds to the population make this an exciting time.

Summer bird baths can attract birds that do not eat from feeders, such as warblers, vireos and flycatchers. That means that the presence of a bird bath greatly increases the kinds of birds that are drawn into backyard for close-up viewing.

Any kind of bird bath will work, from one that is a bowl or dish on a pedestal, to a multiple-tiered, recirculating pool powered by a pump. Though still water works, water that moves will be more attractive to birds, because they can hear the water moving from some distance.

One of the most common mistakes made with bird baths is providing water that is too deep. Though birds may be able to drink from the edges, they will not bathe in water that is more than a couple of inches deep. This problem can be easily solved when a rock is placed in the water to create an island of shallow water. Even better is an island that is partly above water, so that the birds can land on it and then wade into the shallows for a bath.

Regardless of the kind of bird bath, it should contain clean water. In summer, that means replacing still water daily, and recirculating water every week or two. Topping up the pools regularly will also help, as long as the water isn’t too deep.

Bird baths in summer are great fun. Imagine three or four juvenile American robins splashing in all directions. Or a pair of orioles or bluebirds drinking and bathing at the same time.

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