Why garden birds need water

Monday 27 November 2017, 11:32 AM

Though birds will drink from nearly any place, from puddles to swimming pools, natural water sources are becoming more scarce as we eat up the land with building projects. Giving birds more places to drink and bathe can really help, so here’s a simple guide to keeping those crackerjack birds happy.

A little tipple

Swallows scoop up water, pigeons and doves immerse their beaks, and the vast majority of other birds, well they rock their head back, and let gravity do the rest. Whatever the species, birds don’t drink as much as we do, mainly because they don’t have sweat glands, but also because of their diet.

However, though most birds are able to get the water they need from their food, most small birds still need to drink once or twice a day. Those birds who are on a dry diet made up of seeds and other such foods, will need to drink more, and in the winter when the juicy insect treats dry up, even more again! So if you want to invite birds into your garden, providing water is a great idea.

Bird baths and water features, ponds, and puddles; birds will drink from nearly any source, and it’s very important to keep these as clean as you can so not to spread disease. It doesn’t matter how you give water to those feathered visitors, just make sure you do!

Bathing pretty

Plumage, what a wonderful word! If a bird wants to keep their wings in the best condition possible, then they need to bathe. A clean plumage is especially important in the winter, as this helps them to fluff up their wings for extra insulation.

Most birds don’t immerse themselves when bathing, instead, they’ll stand at the edge of the water, and splash water onto their plumage with a ruffle of their feathers and a flutter of their wings. After this thorough soaking, birds often sit in the sun in a bid to dry themselves as fast as possible. They may also spend this time preening themselves, to make sure their feathers are in perfect flying order, a bit like we comb our hair after a shower! Birds will go through this process about once a day.

You can help by providing a nice clean place for a bird to bathe in. Bird baths are easy to come by, come in all shapes and sizes and make for a great ornamental addition to any garden. In short, a bird bath should have shallow sides so birds can drink as well as bathe, have a rough surface to help birds grip with their claws, and be light enough for you to move if need be.

Keep it clean

It’s also important to keep the bath clean, and change the water regularly. Birds can be messy eaters, and will often drop leftovers they’ve been carrying, straight into the bath, which can pollute the water. Add to this the risk of droppings, algae and dead leaves, and you can see how bacteria can quickly build up.

Household cleaners can be used to keep things spick and span, but be wary not to leave any chemical traces, as this can be even more damaging than the bacteria you’re trying to kill!

Happy tip

In the winter months, the mercury drops, and with that, comes a chance of water freezing. How to get round this? Get yourself a water feature! They look pretty, and drastically cut down on the chances of your birds being met with a large ice cube when they need a drink or bath!

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