- Last updated:
- 27 Sep 2020
During this hot weather the best thing you can do for our birdlife is to provide a birdbath in your garden - more than one if possible.
Clean available water is so essential for birds, some finches for example need to drink every few hours, and besides drinking they need to clean their feathers at least once daily to keep them in topmost condition for flying. A bird that doesn’t fly well is soon spotted by a predator bird and will be under attack.
After giving their feathers a good wash, birds then groom them to discourage parasites, finally concluding the preening by taking oil from their preen gland at the base of their tail with their beaks and running it over their feathers to waterproof them. This ensures they can fly in the rain otherwise they would become waterlogged.
Cormorants and darters have to dry their feathers after swimming, if their feathers were waterproof they would be too buoyant to dive underwater from a floating position as is their method. Diving birds such as gannets and terns do have waterproof feathers but they must dive from certain heights to overcome their buoyancy.
A birdbath or two can be an attractive feature in your garden and there are some very handsome birdbaths available. Some low shrubbery close by the birdbath encourages the smaller birds. It can also be fun to create a bathing area by placing terracotta plant-pot bases on stumps, bricks or flat rocks. Providing varying depths of water is important as different species have different bathing habits. Some like Lewin’s Honeyeaters like to dive into a good depth while Brown and Scarlet Honeyeaters like to splash in shallow water. Lorikeets are the most vigorous by dunking their heads and splashing their wings again and again. Where I have two baths together they jump from one to the other like happy children at play.
The bath should be raised if cats are about – possibly three metres.
Birds are vulnerable when drinking as they have to raise their heads for the water to trickle down their throats. However, nature has given more protection to the doves who are able to suck up the water in seconds. This is because when drinking they are prey to so many predators.
Birdwatching in your garden can be a very enjoyable and relaxing pastime. It is good to have a viewing spot from a verandah or a garden seat and often mid-afternoon is an excellent time to watch the fun. Keeping a regular eye on the birdbath is an interesting way of checking the different bird species that may visit your garden through the seasons.
Article by Janet Whish Wilson