I don't mean water them the way one might water a lawn or a flagging, sun-scorched border. (I don't think garden birds would appreciate being chased around the lawn by someone waving a garden sprinkler at them!) I mean put out fresh water for the birds for drinking and bathing. My guess is that it's far fewer than half of those who feed wild birds.
Birds - of course - need fresh drinking water daily, and it's my observation that much of the drinking takes place almost immediately after eating, which means that birds consuming food in a garden without drinking water in situ will have to journey elsewhere to drink. Why not make life a little easier for them and provide fresh water daily? If you already do this, hats off to you. I'm sure the birds are extremely grateful.
It's essential the water is replenished each day, especially in the current dry spell. In fact, in full sun a shallow bird bath will be an empty bird bath within two or three days thanks mainly to evaporation. One way to slow this down is to place the bird bath in a shaded area - but avoid placing it too close to shrubs and bushes where predators may hide. Daily replenishment (and a quick rinse) will also reduce the chance of algae growth.
If you're not watering the birds, you're missing out on one of the most entertaining spectacles: bathing. A frequently used bird bath is a hive of activity and a great focal point to observe the natural interactions between bird species. For example, watch the sparrows take a communal dip and display their gregarious (let's all get in and save water) nature; quarrelsome Starlings, on the other hand, bathe together like a winning rugby team - splashing in a celebratory manner. Then there's the lone Blackbird - preening, drinking, and, between jubilant splashes, bursting into distinctive song.
It’s hard to beat a bird bath for natural entertainment value.
Simon King - firstname.lastname@example.org
We’d like to know more about your garden – if you have a moment please take part in our bird bath survey.
Here's a few of our favourite bird bath photos: (If you would like to share yours, please do so on Facebook/Twitter.