Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Birdbath in Every Garden

Many of us aren't thinking about gardens right now. With winter bearing down, our minds drift toward pumpkin pies and holiday spices. But not so fast.

Just because you are not spending oodles of time in your yard now does not mean that the birds aren't.  Many birds are still migrating southward and looking for a place to take a dip.  Plus, if you do not currently own a bird bath, there is still time to put one on your Christmas or Hanukkah list. Here's why you should:

Birdbaths bring beauty and life into your garden. We have far more diverse and interesting visitors to our bird baths than to our two feeders.  The same four or five species that hit the feeders with regularity do enjoy our bird bath but so do migrating birds such as orioles, warblers, grosbeaks and woodpeckers.

Birdbaths offer a lifeline to wildlife during difficult times.  California is in its third year of an epic drought, which has been particularly tough on native wildlife.  The drought is driving animals into densely populated areas, desperate for food and water.  We have had deer and hawks visit our birdbaths this year in addition to the usual songbirds and squirrels.

A thirsty bobcat gets a drink. Photo used with permission from Don Barclift.

Deer in our front yard. Those mostly ignored the plants - looking for water and shade.

Birdbaths even help imperiled pollinators.

Honeybees are frequent visitors to our birdbaths. 

A birdbath on the cheap.  If a new birdbath isn't in the budget - or on the gift list - never fear.  Birdbaths are readily available at garage and estate sales and on Craigslist. I bought two of our five birdbaths second hand - for about $15 each.  High quality bird baths can last generations.

If you cannot find a second hand birdbath, Pinterest is full of ideas for repurposed ones that are free or nearly so: overturned trashcan lids, repurposed frying pans and our pot/saucer below.  I have even seen neighbors put out kitchen bowls of water for the thirsty mammals entering our neighborhood.  No effort to share water with wildlife is too small.

World's cheapest birdbath.

How to situate a birdbath in your garden.  My highest priority in placing a birdbath is purely selfish. Put it somewhere you can see it! I have one that I can watch through the kitchen window and another through the family room window.  Being able to admire the visitors to our garden has turned my husband, my kids and most definitely my indoor cats into avid birdwatchers.  At least once a week, someone will note, "There's a new kind of bird in the birdbath! What is it?"  We get out the ID book and start squinting.

The view from our family room window.

After you have figured out places where you can enjoy your new birdbath, consider your visitors.  Our most popular birdbaths have partial shade with a tree overhead.  Birds regularly land in the tree to explore the situation before dipping in for a drink.  If you have neighborhood cats, it is a good idea to keep the area surrounding the birdbath clear so that cats cannot hide nearby.  More great tips here.

Our hanging birdbath is popular with smaller songbirds and pollinators. 

Making a commitment. If you add a birdbath to your garden, it is all for naught if you don't keep it full. Birds and other wildlife are looking for a dependable source. Refilling it every couple of days will keep mosquitoes from being a problem and will clear out debris.  Moreover, because birdbaths are so shallow, mosquitoes are rarely an issue. I also scrub mine out every couple of months when algae builds up.

I hope I have convinced you to entice beauty into your yard and extend a hand to wildlife.  I hope I have convinced you that we need a birdbath in every garden.

This post is part of the Homestead Barn HopBackyard Farming ConnectionMaple Hill Hop, and Green Thumb Thursday.


Anna (Green Talk) said...

I have always wanted a birdbath. I want the one with the solar power aerator since we have west nile mosquitoes here. Standing water and mosquitoes are a prefect storm.

I think they sell something that is supposed to discourage mosquitoes in bird baths. I need to look into this.

Thanks for the thump on the head to look into a birdbath.

Mindful Momma said...

Birdbaths are so fun! Now I'm inspired to get one!

Betsy Escandon said...

Is this a new design I see??? Love it! But I want bigger photos : ) I worry about mosquitoes too. How do you deal with that, Green Bean?

Green Bean said...

@Anna and Betsy - Honestly, I have never had any issue whatsoever with mosquitoes and any of our bird baths. Partly, because they are so well used by the birds that they empty out in a few days if I don't refill them. Worst case scenario, just push the water out every few days or every week and start over. (And, yes, Betsy, it is is a semi-new design. I started and then got sidetracked.)

@Mindful Momma - Great! Which type do you think you'll get?

Anne said...

Glad you answered the mosquito question about birdbaths being shallow. That's been my only hesitation. You're inspiring me to add a birdbath next year!

daisy g said...

Wonderful post on an important subject. We place pennies in our birdbaths to keep algae at bay. It really does work. As for mosquitoes, we have so many frogs, dragonflies and lizards, it isn't much of a problem. Thanks for sharing your great outdoor post on this week's Maple Hill Hop! Hope to see you next week!

ginabad said...

I would totally put one in my yard but we'd never get my daughter out of it!! She can never resist a bowl, tub or pool of water. :)

Green Bean said...

@Anne - I've had mosquito larvae only once. All you have to do is tilt the bowl to empty out the water and refill. Because they are so shallow, bird baths also only take a small amount of water to refill. :)

@daisy g: I think I will try the penny trick! Thanks.

@ginabad: Water baby!

Melynda Brown said...

We have had a bird bath for a long time, no mosquito problems even in the middle of summer. But then we also have a bat house and have very few problems with insects of any kind. I think a yard with birds is a healthy yard. I am thinking about a second one with a small section filled with glass marbles so the bees and butterflies can drink without drowning.

Green Bean said...

@Melynda - We have a bat house (unoccupied) but really mosquitoes are no issue and - as you say - a yard with birds is a healthier yard!

Lisa Murano said...

We have deer in the yard all the time, but a bobcat? Scary! Love the birdbath though!

Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday last week! I hope you'll stop by and link up again this week!


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biobabbler said...

Lovely. That shot of the bobcat made my heart pound--SO great.

Wanted to say, a bonus to the upside down terra cotta pot (upside down w/shallow dish on top) is that the upside down pot part (if you don't move it around) provides GREAT habitat for toads.

This post is a great reminder that I should set up a few watering holes, beyond the pie dish of water I set out for our hen. =) Thanks!

Green Bean said...

@Lisa - Lol. Yes, I think a bobcat might be out of the ordinary!

@biobabbler - Fantastic point! We don't have toads around here. Too urban maybe or maybe just not yet but I also have a saucer on top of a stack of rocks and the lizards who moved in seem to love that.

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