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Birdbaths good for us, too

Shannon Amidon

Kathy McCollough loves to sit on her deck and watch robins, sparrows and wrens splash in her birdbath, and every year she seems to have more feathered friends. In fact, she thinks the birds may have an annual reunion right in her backyard.

“I think they return every year,” she said. “It’s something to look forward to in the spring. We’ll hear them at 3:30 or 4 in the morning just chirping away. I’m just sure it’s all the ones who were here last year or before.”

Although McCollough enjoys the music and winged dances of these reunions, the birdbath is special to her for another reason.

“It was my husband’s parents’,” she said. “When they moved into a smaller place, we inherited it. The fact that it came from them makes it so special.”

The concrete birdbath rests in shade under several tall pines in the eastern corner of the McCollough’s backyard. “We can see it from every window in the back of our house,” she said.

Irving Stephenson, owner of Coeur d’Alene’s Wild Bird Unlimited approves. “Birds will get used to just about anything,” he said. “Like the movement in the house if (the birdbath) is by a window.”

Stephenson said the best place to put a birdbath is in the shade, in an open area free of shrubs, so cats can’t hide below.

But McCollough doesn’t have trouble with a cat.

“The squirrels jump from the trees,” she said. “Once they even knocked the top off.” At first, McCollough didn’t know what had happened and replaced the top of the birdbath. Then, the next day she saw a squirrel sitting in the middle of the bowl.

“Another year – we have two bird houses in our yard, too – the squirrels were bothering the baby birds and I went outside to chase them away from the nests,” McCollough said. “Later when I went out to sit on the deck, a mama bird came to a branch very close to me. It was as close as she could get. I always thought she was saying ‘thank you for all your help.’”

Birdbaths may allow you the opportunity to examine a bird at a closer range than you have ever done before. As the birds relax in their new surroundings, they stay for longer periods of time.

One way to make your birdbath inviting, is to keep it clean.

“The most important thing is to keep the water as fresh as possible,” said Stephenson. “The biggest thing would be cleanliness, especially in hot weather when everything really grows – including bacteria and algae. The key is to keep the water moving if you can and change it often. Keep it free of microbes and little creatures.”

Since birds wade and don’t swim, the water should be shallow. Also, the bottom of the birdbath should be rough so they won’t lose their footing.

“If it’s too deep they won’t get in it, but they might drink from it,” Stephenson added. He suggests placing a rock in the middle of your birdbath for the birds to sit on.

For a birdbath that’s extra attractive to birds, create motion or waves in the water. “I sell what’s called a ‘water wiggler,’ a device that you put in the bottom that creates gentle ripples,” Stephenson said. “Moving water attracts birds and it also doesn’t allow the mosquitoes a chance to lay their eggs. Mosquitoes like still water like ponds.”

Birdbaths can offer backyard bird-watching pleasure year round. As winter creeps back into the air, consider adding a heating device to your birdbath. “We have birdbaths that are heated, and we have heaters that you can plug into them,” he said. “Both can help.” Stephenson prefers plastic or resin birdbaths.

McCollough said she and her husband Mac plan to pass on their birdbath to their children. “When they were kids they always enjoyed watching the birds play in it under an apple tree, at Mac’s parents’ place,” she said. “They’ll always have that memory, and that’s special.”

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