Imagine you are a garden bird. It is hot, the sun is shining, worms have been eaten and you need a drink. Perched on the very top of your favourite tree, probably a Lawson cypress, you have been singing away the early morning and your throat is dry (perhaps you are a greenfinch whose song is a prolonged nasal “tswe-e-e” in the breeding season, and you are exhausted). Looking down on what the neighbouring gardens have to offer, you see no puddles because of the heat, but you spot some inviting birdbaths. Alas, on closer inspection they are either too deep for your little pink legs or full of green slime because the bowl is porous and harbours algae.
Happily, you are attracted to a particular birdbath – a fine ceramic bowl with an attractive turquoise glaze, standing on a reassuringly solid piece of oak. The bowl tapers to a depth of three inches in the middle, and the glaze ensures there is little algae, if any. Perfect. You have a quick look at the bottom of the bowl: of course, the “b” of belatrova is embedded in the ceramic – no wonder it such a fine piece. No deeper than three inches at the center and even shallower at the edge, so that a greenfinch can ease its way in. Many birdbaths are just not shallow enough.
Some people put rocks in theirs to raise the bottom, but it will require more work to keep the water clean.
As a greenfinch you will know where a birdbath should be located. Not where cats can hide. Cats like to lie in wait beneath shrubbery and then jump on the birds when they’re wet and can’t fly well. Consider putting your birdbath at least five feet from such hiding places. Give the birds a chance to see the cat approaching. There should also be an escape route. The ideal location is under some branches that hang down within two or three feet of the bath. A wet bird can flutter a few feet up to the safety of the leaves.
A birdbath on a pedestal makes it easy to see from the house, easy to clean, and somewhat safer from predators. If you locate your bath on the ground, it is important for the birds to have overhanging branches to fly to. And place it within reach of a hose – make your birdbath easy to clean and refill. But locate your birdbath away from the feeding area, because seeds and droppings will dirty the water quickly. Change the water every few days, or even every day in hot weather.
Don’t forget to place the birdbath where you can see it from indoors, from your desk, dining room, or the kitchen sink. Then you can enjoy the sight of a blackbird or sparrow splashing away – well, wouldn’t you want to clean your feathers and remove any parasites? it can brighten up your day.
belatrova’s favourite tweets (just click the bird):
Ah, birdsong; nothing purer or more natural…. “even Cathy Berberian knows there’s one roulade she can’t sing.“ (Steely Dan – Your Gold Teeth)