A Steller's Jay enjoys its time on a ceramic bird bath with a drip!
Water is essential for almost all life on Earth. In North America, the bird species are no different. Water is a requirement for their feathered lives and the lives of freshly hatched chicks. During times of drought or extreme heat waves, humans can step up their backyard offerings and help birds stay hydrated.
Water birds doing without water? Not much.
Across the internet, articles can be found with a lot of misinformation about how long a bird can survive without a readily available water source. Many of the previously mentioned articles providing this incorrect info are regurgitating other poorly researched information, likely from people with captive pet birds. Ornithologists put the water needs question to the test and found an answer, but this answer is complex. How long a bird can last without water depends upon the air temperature, bird size, bird species, availability of shelter, and much more. For small feeder birds like finches, hot summer temperatures can leave a bird in a dangerous zone of dehydration in less than forty-eight hours. This number fluctuates wildly, so do not depend on it as a hard and fast rule. Birds need water, and they need a lot of it during heat waves or drought.
A flock of Thick-billed Longspurs bathe in a puddle!
Some birds have amazing physiologies that can extract moisture from their food sources. While bird lovers can hope that feeders supply enough hydration within birdseed, providing a separate water source can not only ensure a thriving local bird population but also attract a greater diversity and abundance of birds!
The fountain of diversity (and abundance).
A mythical fountain fabled to have been a discovery of a Spanish conquistador is not a requirement to maximize the bird viewing in a backyard. Instead, the most basic basins (or "fountains") can attract and assist neighborhood birds. In fact, a reliable water source can attract a greater variety of bird species than even the best feeder! Why? Not all birds will eat seeds, but almost all birds will drink or bathe in a bird bath. Some of the most colorful species of birds, such as warblers, vireos, tanagers, and bluebirds (and other thrushes), are frequent bird bath users but are rare visitors to the average seed feeder. These insectivores (insect-eating) or frugivores (fruit-eating) have a distinct diet that is difficult to imitate with a bird feeder. Still, they all require hydration in some shape or form. By maximizing a backyard with an offering of fresh water, bird lovers can enjoy the most remarkable potential bird visitors!
The shallow end of the pool.
One of an ornithologists' most frequently asked questions about bird baths is how to keep a birdbath safe. The threat of drowning is a real issue for birds when water within a contained element is too deep. Fortunately, most basins for bird baths are quite unlike the typical horse trough or stock tank. The basins used in bird baths are shallow and wide, allowing birds to dip their lower halves into the water without being able to fully submerge to the point of danger. In the event that a small bird, such as a hummingbird or kinglet, uses a bird bath, Birds Choice encourages users to add some cobble or hand-sized stones to the bath. These rocks give birds a ladder to escape the water if they 'get in too deep.'
Keeping bird baths shallow is as easy as purchasing a basin that holds less than 5 inches of water at its deepest point or adding a few rocks. This simple step will help to maintain a safe bird bath for all your favorite birds.
Birds prefer to bath and drink in shallow water, like this American Robin splashing in a shallow creek!
Cleanliness is next to birdie-ness.
Bird safety in the bird bath does not only involve water depth. It also requires sanitation! (And maybe keep toasters away from the bird bath too.) Birdbaths should be emptied and replenished daily unless they have significant water movement from a pump, fountain, or drip. Keeping fresh or moving water is crucial to stop pests and avoid litter accumulation (seeds, leaves, etc).
Additionally, basins should be scrubbed weekly with a dilute vinegar solution. Vinegar is strong enough to fight against various detrimental maladies but is not as dangerous as bleach to birds and other wildlife. These two steps will reduce insect usage, minimize bacteria and virus growth, and mitigate against algal and fungal growth from the water. For most water providers, these simple actions are enough for a safe bird bath.
Want to step up your cleanliness efforts? Add a pump and filter to your bird water system!
Birds like to move it, move it.
For many backyard birdwatchers, having a bird bath is enough. But, for those that wish to take their bird spas to the next level, add some movement to your water! Add a bubbler, drip, or agitator to a bird bath to create a whirlpool tub that is easily seen by birds from greater distances. While still water will lure in birds, water with ripples, bubbles, or other forms of agitation will pull birds to a bird oasis, even from a neighbor's yard!
Moving water attracts more birds, helps with freshness and sanitation, and repels egg-laying attempts from mosquitoes. Keep it moving.
No additives necessary
By eliminating additives from a bird bath, conservationists create a safe and natural environment for the birds. Antifungals, chlorines, and pesticides, which are commonly used in outdoor ponds and water features, should never be added to a bird bath. These chemicals can be harmful to both birds and humans.
It is important to note that even products labeled as "bird-safe" may adversely affect certain bird species while being safe for others. The best approach is to avoid using any chemicals altogether to ensure the well-being of all bird species that visit your bird bath.
By opting for a chemical-free approach, humans can promote a healthier neighborhood habitat for birds. Water should simply be water without any unnecessary additives. Maintaining proper hygiene and cleanliness by regularly changing the water and cleaning the bird bath is sufficient to keep it safe and inviting for birds.
Remember, birds have evolved to rely on natural water sources, and your bird bath can mimic that realistic experience without the need for chemicals. By providing a clean and chemical-free bird-focused water feature, birds will regain an opportunity to engage in their natural behaviors and enjoy a refreshing drink or a revitalizing bath.
Prioritize the well-being of all feathered friends and make water only water again. By taking this step, backyard birders create a safe haven for birds to thrive and ensure a healthier environment for everyone involved.
Share the warmth!
While less necessary during the hot, dry months, preventing a bird bath from freezing can still help birds during winter droughts. When most available water is locked up in ice, birds will struggle to stay hydrated. To remedy this issue, switch to a heated birdbath for months when temperatures sit below freezing. Retrofitting an existing bird bath is also an option by adding a water heating de-icer!
Birds Choice has options for all snow birds!
Water is important.
It is crucial to recognize the significance of water for bird species in North America, just as it is for all forms of life on Earth. Water plays a vital role in their survival, supporting their daily activities and nourishing newly hatched chicks. In times of drought or extreme heat waves, bird lovers have the opportunity to make a difference by providing additional water sources in our backyards to help birds stay hydrated.
By taking action and promoting the availability of bird baths, we can contribute to the well-being and conservation of bird species in North America. Together, we can make a positive impact on our feathered friends' lives and create a thriving environment for them to thrive. Visit our website, check out our offerings, and join us in supporting the wonderful world of birds.
If you are interested in supporting our avian friends, we invite you to explore our extensive range of bird baths. As part of our seasonal sale, we offer various discounted items that can enhance your bird-friendly environment. Additionally, by registering with Birds Choice, you can stay connected with our bird learning center, where we provide valuable information and resources to help you deepen your understanding of birds and their needs.