Birds Need To Bathe Too

Ducks love the water, there’s no doubt about that!  Their pleasure in swimming, splashing and bathing is evident—they tackle the ritual bath with enthusiasm.  Ducks spend a good chunk of their time bathing and preening.  It’s part of their daily routine to stay healthy and beautiful!

As the above video demonstrates, ducks take their time when it comes to having a bath, and the reasons do not necessarily relate to vanity.  Without constantly bathing, duck’s feathers become dull and dirty, and lose the ability to repel water and trap air.  If this happens, a duck will be in danger of hypothermia.  So, it is good that ducks do enjoy the water so much, because they must keep their feathers clean and conditioned.

Of course all waterfowl bathe often, not just ducks.  And many birds, besides waterfowl like to bathe!

Why Birds Need To Bath Regularly

Songbirds of all types like to stay clean, and partly for the same reason as the ducks. Though they don’t swim, and therefore don’t need the same regular oiling that ducks have, they still have oil glands, and use the oils produced for the same reason–to condition and protect the feathers, and give a degree of protection from the elements.  They need to keep their feathers clean and in good shape, for the same reason as the ducks—their feathers are their clothes, keeping their bodies warm.  They also need their feathers in good shape because they use them to fly, and to keep their babies warm on the nest.

Sparrow-bathing-in-water

Birds enjoy a good rain puddle. Whether robins, crows or sparrows, they will enjoy a nice dip, going through many of the same motions as the duck, dipping the head and breast into the water, and using their wings to splash it up.  It’s quite amusing to watch, and it’s clear they are having fun!  People enjoy watching birds play in the water so much, that they will go through the effort to supply a nice bird bath for their feathered friends.

Tips On Buying A Bird Bath For Your Garden

If you want to set up a bird bath in your yard, here are a few ideas.

Be sure to place any bird attraction in a spot where you can enjoy the show, but also where the birds will have a measure of safety from predators.  Whether a bird feeder or a bird bath, whenever we attract birds, we also attract the creatures who like to eat birds.  Hawks and cats are the two main culprits.

tips on buying a bird bath for your garden

Most important is to provide the birds cover to dart into, should a hawk show up.  The easiest solution is through plantings.  Bushy shrubs, such as cedar or yew, and tangled vines or hedges, are good for this purpose.  The multiflora rose is a species which grows as tangled hedges, and provides the kind of thicket small birds will hide in, and also nest in. The multiflora rose also produces small reships, which look more like berries.  These are good food for birds in autumn and winter as well.

Here are some homemade bird baths we came across on Pinterest.  As you can see, they are surrounded by ample shrubbery for the birds to dart into, if there is a threat.  Nice placement!

homemade birdbath ideas

A Note About Feline Predators

As far as cats are concerned, try to situate the bird bath or feeder, so that the cat cannot hide right next to it.  If the pedestal of the bird bath is nestled in plants which could provide a hide-out for a cat, they will tend to lie in wait for the next victim to come along. The best idea is to provide plantings nearby, so the birds can quickly hide from a hawk, but not so close that the vegetation allows a cat to hide and spring.

cat hiding in bushes

Types And Varieties Of Bird Bathes

Bird baths come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  Some have running water circulating using a small pump, more like a fountain style.  There are historic designs from the English country garden classic–usually in concrete–to modern models with water heaters for winter bathing.  Yes, birds will bathe in winter!  However, if the weather is below freezing, it is probably better not to encourage them to get wet!  Getting dry could be a problem, and being damp in freezing weather could make our feathered friends sick, or even kill them by hypothermia.

birds cooling off in bird bath

Photo Credit: Judy Hawkes

I would recommend keeping the bird bath a distance from the house, and especially to avoid placing it in line with windows.  Reflective glass windows fool birds into thinking they are flying into a scene, and many, many songbirds die this way each year.

A bird bath can be as simple as a shallow bowl of water, placed on a fence post.  Whatever you choose, be sure to change the water every day, and clean the basin.  Slimy dirty water won’t do the birds a favour, especially since many will also drink from the bird bath!

fancy bird bath

It’s a thrill when you see your first “customer” at the bird bath!  If you enjoy taking photos of birds, the bird bath will also provide some nice photo ops as well.

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