Many people will put a birdbath in their yard, purely for aesthetic reasons. Since there are typically so many natural sources of water that a bird can rely on, is a birdbath really essential to a bird’s survival? Many people will focus more on providing birds with a reliable food source, but what about water? Let’s explore the bird’s hydration needs, the importance of water for birds, and what you can do to help.i

Why Do Birds Need Water?

The surface of the earth consists of seventy-one percent water, with ninety-six percent of that water from the ocean. There are some species of water birds that have a special gland in their bodies that allows them to drink saltwater, such as the albatross and the petrel, but most birds require a freshwater source in order to survive. The remaining percent of the earth’s water supply is freshwater. Unfortunately, a higher percentage of this water is trapped in underwater sources, glaciers, and ice caps.

There are some water sources that would be dangerous for birds to attempt to access, such as a waterfall or a fastmoving river. Additionally, small songbirds cannot use deep pools of water unless there are ledges or perches that are accessible. All birds need water, and because of this, predators will usually stalk the water sources. Erosion and pollution can also make natural water sources unsuitable for birds. Backyard water features and birdbaths, if maintained properly, can be suitable for birds.

Birds need water just as much as people do. For birds, drinking water will help with improving metabolism and regulating bodily processes, which will keep a bird healthy. A bird will use water for bathing and preening. In warmer weather, they will stand in cold water or take a dip in order to stay cool. While there are many wild birds that take advantage of natural water sources from reservoirs, ponds, rivers, and lakes, to streams and puddles, a backyard water source will be equally valuable. Basically, a backyard water source is usually much safer for them, since there will not be as many natural predators around and the water is often much fresher and kept cleaner. This helps a bird to stay healthy, preened, and cool.

How Can I Provide a Bird with Water?

There are a few ways you can offer birds water, each of which will make your yard more bird-friendly.

Birdbaths

You can find birdbaths available in a wide range of sizes and designs from beautifully done artistic models and elaborate sippers to shallow basins or simple dishes. These baths can be placed directly on the ground, or they can be hung or elevated on pedestals. The material, color, shape, depth, and size of a birdbath tends to vary, so you’ll be sure to find one that will work with your current garden design and yard size.

Fountain

sparrow standing

A bird fountain is often much larger than a birdbath and will include some type of element of movement. Larger fountains will come with one or more dribbling streams, while a bubbler is more compact and much smaller. The movement of the water helps to minimize the growth of algae blooms and can also prevent breeding insects. Additionally, the sparkles from the moving water and the splashing sound will attract cardinals and other birds in the immediate area.

Water Feature

Integrated water features are the most elaborate option when it comes to a backyard water source. Backyard streams, waterfalls, or ponds can be very valuable as part of a bird-friendly yard, and they also do a good job of mimicking natural water sources that many birds are more comfortable and familiar with. When designed correctly, these features will be a great water source for birds for bathing and drinking. It can also end up being a good source for amphibians, fish, and plants. These features can be pricey, so they’re not the best option for the homeowner on a tight budget.

Regardless of the type of water source you offer in your backyard, you can be sure it’s going to be very valuable and helpful to all of your backyard wildlife, especially birds.

Water Source Care

If you decide to add some type of water source to your backyard, make sure you stay on top of maintenance. Regular care includes removing algae, leaves, and can ensure that that water remains free of any type of toxic contamination such as chemicals, pesticides, and soaps. Make sure the bath is properly scrubbed out before you refill it.

Taking certain steps to keep a water source safe from predator such as providing brush piles for a bird to retreat to, or positioning the birdbath far from any areas where a predator can hide, will make your birds feel more secure and safe when using the water source.

Make sure the source is always filled with clean and fresh water and refill it as often as needed. It may need to be filled daily during the summer due to evaporation in the heat and more birds using the birdbath to splash around. Keeping the water filled up to the rim will allow smaller species of birds to easily access the water.

Helping Your Backyard Birds

Any type of water feature can be a great addition to your yard, whether it’s an elaborate pond or waterfall, a fountain, or a simple birdbath, you will notice a huge increase in the number of bird visitors you get daily. Once you see how many birds are attracted to the water, you’ll be encouraged to add more water features to your yard.

You can also put out food for the birds using the best squirrel proof bird feeders with a durable design, but be sure to continue to supply them with fresh water, which is just as important as food.

How to Clean a Birdbath

Keeping your birdbath clean will help to prevent the spread of disease. A birdbath should be cleaned out regularly, with a total water change. Bird droppings, dead leaves and debris, and a layer of algae will soon build-up, so make sure you thoroughly clean out the bath at least once a week. To do, scrub out the bottom and sides to get rid of dirt and algae buildup. You can use a diluted household disinfectant, just be sure that the bath is rinsed out thoroughly in order to remove any trace of the cleaner. You can also search online for non-toxic products to use that are specifically designed for birdbaths and other types of backyard water features.

Preventing Ice in the Winter

Birds need to drink as often as we do, whether the weather is cold or hot. They will even try to bathe during the winter. In cold or freezing conditions, garden ponds and birdbaths can become even more important because many natural water sources for birds will be frozen or choked with dead leaves. While keeping a birdbath from freezing can be tricky, there are some easy methods you can try:

  • A lightweight plastic ball floating on the surface of the water can be moved by the gentle breeze and will keep a small amount of the birdbath free of ice.
  • Use hot water to melt the ice
  • Line a birdbath with a sheet of polythene which you can be removed along with the ice.
  • Place a metal container on four bricks with a night light candle placed under it and shelter the flame from the wind with the use of an extra brick.
  • Buy an immersion heater that you can control with a thermostat
  • Use a lightbulb inside a tilting pipe and rest a dish on it.
  • Some models of birdbaths are specifically designed to handle winter conditions. There are innovative birdbaths that utilize solar energy in order to prevent the water from freezing.

Do Not Use Additives

Never add any type of chemical or product to the water. Doing so can poison the bird or it can stop the bird’s feathers from being waterproof. If you clean the bath out regularly, then you won’t need to use chemicals to keep the birdbath clean.

Final Thoughts

Water is everything to birds. It helps them stay hydrated, it keeps them clean, and it cools them off during the summer months. It’s crucial that they have a fresh source of water year-round, especially in harsh weather conditions, when finding a safe and clean source of water can be very challenging and even dangerous. Now that the importance of water for birds is clear, you can purchase a birdbath or another type of water feature for your yard and provide your local birds with a clean, fresh reliable water source that they can rely on year-round, especially when they need it the most, such as in the winter or summer. These birdbaths can be an aesthetically pleasing addition to your yard, but more importantly, they’ll provide birds with the hydration they need to stay healthy in hot and freezing temperatures.