It has been raining the past few days, but soon the heat will arrive and the birds will be wanting fresh water to drink and bathe in. One of the most effective ways to bring birds down from the treetops and into your view is to add moving water. Dappled sunlight sparkles on it when it moves and the sound really gets the attention of the birds.
There are many ways that adding movement to water can be accomplished. We have found that birds will use every water source available to them here. We have several types of water features for birds that are spread around our property for convenient access.
Here is a short video showing three of our water features: the original Bubbler rock, a small fountain and a dripper on a birdbath.
A water feature like the Bubbler can be done with pond liner material or a pre-formed pond as the base. It takes some time and effort to plan and install as it requires electricity for the pump and a de-icer. It also can be an expensive investment when a contractor does it for you. The Bubbler is our own design, simple and effective with the added basin area seen below. The area has filled in with native plants surrounding it and it feels like 'home' to the birds.
Perhaps you already have a Bubbler, either a pond or a pondless type. Are the birds coming down to use it? It is best to have the basin area only be about 2 1/2" - 3" deep at most. Moving the gravel around to make a smaller puddle area or two gives the birds some options. And, don't forget to have perches of different sizes available. Birds don't have good depth perception, so they need to grab onto a perch and get a close-up look before deeming it safe to get into the water.
We'll post more on Bubbler type water features later. For now, here are a couple simple ideas one can get ready in a jiffy if you're just beginning.
For a quick way to get some water moving, consider a fountain. I found a bowl and some decorative stone and added this small pump. A branch laid off to the side gives birds a perch to get a drink because the rocks and bowl may be slippery. The pump does require electricity and we added a timer to have it on only during the daytime. This one is on our front porch in the shade.
As for maintenance, we check the water level daily because the bowl must be adequately filled to keep the pump running. We disconnect everything and check the pump every week and flush out any debris as well. We also add 3% Hydrogen peroxide weekly, a couple ounces will do. Hydrogen peroxide is safe for us to use as a dental rinse and it's also safe for birds. It helps to oxygenate and sanitize the water. DO NOT use chlorine bleach!
Actually, the easiest way to add moving water may be to add a dripper to a birdbath. A dripper requires no electricity, just attach it to your spigot. We had some leftover tubing and Dan fashioned this one from the tubing along with an inline valve. I used some vinyl coated wire to attach it to a shepherd's hook type of stake. It's good to have plants that like a moist environment in the area under your birdbath, too. Native ostrich ferns (Matteucia struthiopteris), celandine poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum), wild ginger (Asarum canadense) and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are in this shady bed that gets dappled sunlight.
Drippers are available through your local bird feeding supply stores and online. The kit should contain everything you need to attach it to your spigot with a "Y" valve. One website that we use and recommend is this one that carries Birds Choice products:
Here's a photo of another example.
You may have noticed that all of these are in shady areas. Keeping your water out of open sunny areas will minimize evaporation and keep it at a cooler temperature. It is also safer for the birds, they're not as vulnerable to hawks when they can dash into cover.
May you have many new avian visitors to your water feature!