Bird Waterers: The Importance

of a Water Source for Birds

15 Jul , 2015  

Just like us, our wild bird friends need water for survival. Whether our backyard visitors are cleaning their plumage or just washing down their food; water is the best way to attract birds and complement a birdscaped backyard. One of the easiest ways to bring a water source to your yard is to add a bird waterer.

How to Place Bird Waterers

Bird waterers look a lot like bird feeders – the only difference is that you fill them with water instead of seed. They work wonderfully when placed near a seed-filled feeder, but you should take a few precautions when placing one in your yard.

  • ABOVE A FEEDER – When most birds use a bird feeder, they pluck a seed from the feeder, crack it open, let the hull drop and eat the seed heart. If you place a waterer near a feeder, make sure the tray of the waterer is higher than the seed feeder. Otherwise, the water will become cluttered with seed hulls in a very short time.
  • OUT OF THE SUN – Keep a bird waterer out of the direct sunlight. Too much sun can cause an algae bloom inside and even promote bacteria growth.
  • WHERE YOU CAN REACH IT – Once your bird waterer gets noticed, you’re going to find it can get drained quickly by the thirsty birds in your neighborhood! That means you’ll want to place the waterer where it’s easy to remove for refilling and cleaning.
    Of course, Perky-Pet® offers a top-filling bird waterer that you don’t need to take down to refill it. Just hold your hose over it and fill it up!
  • NEAR COVER, BUT NOT TOO CLOSE – As with bird feeders, you should place your bird waterer in an area that’s generally open, but within 10-20 feet from cover. When surprised, birds prefer to quickly zip to the safety of a tree or shrub. That puts more leaves and branches between a bird and a potential predator.

Other Water Sources

Of course your birds may be finding water elsewhere on your property, and you should also consider these when you’re trying to make a safe environment for them.

Bird bath safety

When birds are wet from bathing, they are more vulnerable to predators because they may not be able to fly as skillfully.

  • BIRD BATHS – It’s safe to say that wild birds would have a hard time cleaning the dust and debris out of their feathers with just a waterer. So consider adding a bird bath. Place the bath in the shade wherever possible but also be conscious of shrubs that could house potential predators.
    Bird baths should be between 1 and 3 inches deeps and with sloped sides.
    Also, the bird baths made with heavy plastic are best since concrete bird baths can crack in freezing weather.
  • RAIN BARRELS – Open rain barrels can pose a drowning hazard to birds and other wildlife. To protect them, simply place a tree branch about the height of the barrel inside it. The branch will give birds and other creatures a ladder to escape if they fall while getting a drink.
  • EAVESTROUGHS – While you generally don’t want to have standing water inside your eavestroughs, you should know that birds can drink from them. We wouldn’t advise you to let water linger in an eavestrough – such an environment can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes!
  • POOLS – Your backyard pool may attract thirsty birds and other critters. In general, this isn’t a good match for your birds. Since a pool is so deep, it’s difficult for a waterlogged bird to escape. Your best bet is to not make a pool appealing to birds by keeping it covered whenever possible.
  • PUDDLES – While you may see that puddle in your driveway as a nuisance, the birds love it despite the dangers it can pose to them. The problem comes from puddles near roadways, which can be an unintended collection point for chemicals used in automobiles. You don’t want your backyard birds ingesting oil, antifreeze, gasoline and wiper fluid! To help your birds, try filling in those roadside puddles, but consider leaving those that aren’t so exposed to such pollutants.
  • PONDS – If you have a man-made or natural pond on your property, then you’re probably supporting dozens of birds! Ponds that have easy to navigate shorelines with gentle slopes are best for backyard birds. That gives them plenty of opportunities to bathe and drink. Adding an aerator or fountain will also help it from going stagnant.
Cardinal and Sparrow at Snowy Birdbath

Keep bird baths clear of ice during the winter with a heater or by placing a warmed brick on the ice each morning.

Cold Weather Water Sources for Birds

As you install a water feature in your yard, remember that your birds will need water during cold weather too. A frozen bird bath or an iced-over pond won’t help them. Sure, birds can and do eat snow, but doing so actually saps their energy because they have to melt it with their body heat.

You can help them avoid that unnecessary energy expenditure by thawing frozen water sources. Try installing heaters in bird baths and ponds. A waterer is even easier! Simply bring it in at night and let it unthaw inside the house.

Helping Birds

Whatever you decide to do to provide water for your backyard birds, they’ll appreciate it. Just make sure that your new backyard water source stays clean. You also want to monitor it during temperature extremes – during hot weather it can disappear fast and in cold weather your birds’ water source can freeze.

Happy bird watering!

Looking for more advice on the wild birds visiting your yard? Leave a question in the comments below!

The WBJ Blog Team By

The Wild Bird Journal Blog Team's primary goal is to provide you with all the information you need to feed and assist the birds that visit your backyard. If you have a question, don't hesitate to leave a message for us in the comment section. We're always happy to help you and your feathered friends!

5 Responses

  1. Scott Elliston says:

    I am lucky, living in Southern California I never really get a freeze so the water is always available. But that is a good idea, had never thought about that before. Thanks for the great idea, if I ever move to the frozen parts.

  2. virginia says:

    i would love to have this in my yard for the birds to thake a bath and get water. i love to watch them take a bath.

  3. Brenda Carter says:

    love bird watching and reading about birds.

  4. C Watson says:

    I live in Illinois and have created a natural habitat in our yard there is a fenced off part with a bird feeder it keeps out our dog and stray cats. I provide seed that goes with the birds in our area also ground feeding. In another part of our yard is fenced with 3 finch feeders, a bush for hummingbirds, butterfly plants, trumpet vine. A bird bath and a shepards hook over the bird bath for a 1 gal milk jug that I poke a hole in the bottom place a thin stick fill the gal jug with water and hang the handle on the hook the water will drip all day into the bird bath this attracts robins and many other birds. I placed flat rock in the bird bath for smaller birds. I always wear a straw hat when working in the yard and all sort of birds come very close to me and follow me.

  5. Raoul Lapointe says:

    Bird Waterer. Thank you for this comprehensive article which answers my questions. I live in Ottawa Ontario, Canada.

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