Water is the number one thing that birds and other wildlife have the hardest time finding on their own and it’s often the one thing that we often forget to include in our landscapes.
If you are lucky enough to have a pond, a lake or a stream on your property, you have an incredibly valuable resource for wildlife. Make sure to plant native plants around the banks (aka riparian buffers) to increase habitat for wildlife, including beneficial insects like dragonflies. You don’t want to have turf grass growing up to the edge of a water feature – it’s terrible for the environment – discouraging the beneficial creatures you want and encouraging the creatures you don’t want, like non-migrating Canada Geese.
If you don’t have a natural water feature, think about creating a man-made water feature, preferably one with moving water. Birds are very attracted to moving water – you will have many more wild bird visitors than with standing water. Make sure to include a gently sloping side to allow small birds and beneficial insects to make a safe entry into the water. Think “wildlife ramp” not “deep water dive.”
If your space or budget does not allow for a man-made pond or the like, then get a bird bath. Better yet, get several. Opt for bird baths that are shallow – no deep sides which can be dangerous for smaller birds. My favorite type of bird bath is one which has several shallow levels – allowing small birds to enter safely on the edges while bigger birds can bathe in the deeper center.
If you can’t find a shallow bird bath, then simply add some rocks into the middle of a deep bird bath which will allow smaller birds to access the water safely. With regard to bird bath materials, some metals are toxic to birds including lead, zinc and copper, so I suggest avoiding bird baths made from these metals. Also avoid glazed ceramic bird baths unless the glaze is specified as lead-free.
With any water feature you’ve got to keep it clean for birds. A man- made water feature should have a pump and a filter which will do much of the cleaning for you. If you see a lot of algae building up, then it’s time to start cleaning or changing your filter. With a large water feature, you may have to dredge if there is too much nutrient build-up over time.
With bird baths, I suggest splashing out the water out at least once a day to eliminate mosquito larva and to keep the water fresh. Then, on a weekly basis, scrub the bird baths out with a non-toxic soap to make sure that there is no build-up of any bacteria. That way your birds are going to drink safely and cleanly.
Just remember to include a clean water feature in every garden!
Watch my short video: “Water Features for Birds & Other Wildlife”
from Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!
Photo: Robin Making a Splash
Photo credit: Flickr_Ben Gray