Like all living beings, birds need water to survive. Birds drink water everyday and they also use water for bathing, to clean their feathers to remove dust, loose feathers, parasites and other debris from their plumage. For these reasons, a dependable supply of fresh, clean water is attractive to most birds. Water in the garden will bring a diversity of birds to your garden that don’t eat seeds and would not normally visit your feeders. Providing water for birds will improve the quality of your garden’s ecosystem and will provide you with a fantastic opportunity to observe and discover new birds.
The more water you provide, and the more areas you provide it in will bring in a greater diversity of birds. Shy birds that would fleetingly visit would prefer to visit a bird bath in a secluded part of the garden with foliage and shrubs for protection and where they won’t be disturbed by cats and dogs. A bird bath in the middle of the lawn would attract doves that are bold enough to take a bath in the open. It is preferable to provide water at ground level as this will cater for a diversity of bird species to visit. An ideal, natural way to do this is to a put in a grinding stone, or a replica thereof at ground level. If too deep for small birds, place a few pebbles in the birdbath where they can perch.
To go one step further, and you have the space and budget to allow it, try to create a water feature, pond or a mini-garden wetland that will become sustainable. There is a shortage of well-designed water features in urban areas and in some cities a non-existence of wetlands – safe havens for birds. One can start by converting a small section of your garden into a wetland and over time it become self-sustaining with ecosystems developing with birds and wildlife creating permanent breeding cycles. The combination of water and plant material also creates safe habitats for other life forms that will become part of the bird’s diet. Wetlands will provide protection and nesting sites for birds like the Cape Weaver, Masked Weaver, Red Bishops, Malachite Kingfisher and the Thickbilled Weaver.
All birds will value any accessible source of fresh water when visiting the garden. It does not have to be elaborate and simple things like an upturned dustbin lid, a car hubcap, an unused cat or dog bowl will be appreciated.