Providing Water for Wildlife

Wildlife needs water as much as we humans do. Providing water in your backyard habitat not only helps wildlife but also is one of the surest ways to attract wild creatures to your yard. In many of our suburban and urban areas, there are few natural sources of water. Especially in winter, when most water is frozen, or in times of drought, a water source can enhance the chances of survival of birds and other wildlife. In addition to drinking, birds also need water for bathing to help maintain the clean feathers so essential to flight and keeping warm in cold weather.

Adding a water source to your yard can be as easy or as involved as you like. If you opt for the simpler approach, a traditional pedestal birdbath is always a welcome oasis for birds. A rock placed in the middle allows for perching and bathing in the shallow depth that birds prefer. A birdbath placed on the ground will probably attract an even larger variety of wildlife. It can even be as uncomplicated as a one-half-inch deep saucer such as a flowerpot base or a lined half-barrel. Placing multiple birdbaths at different locations in the yard, such as under shrubs and in the shade, can appeal to shy creatures like chipmunks and toads as well as birds.

It is important to keep a birdbath or any other water source clean. A birdbath can be cleaned with a brush or by hosing it out. In warm weather, it’s good to clean a birdbath every few days; but, in winter, when an entire flock of robins might visit and dirty a bath in minutes, you may need to clean and refill it daily. Another challenge can be keeping a birdbath from freezing in winter. If you have a nearby electrical source and some outdoor electrical cord, you can add a de-icer to keep the water thawed. These heaters are available at most stores that carry By adding a pond to your habitat, you can have a permanent source of water for an even greater variety of wildlife. With a recirculating pump, you will create a rippling surface that is eye-catching and very appealing to birds that may be flying by. The sound of moving or trickling water adds more enticement for wildlife to come in for a look, drink, and perhaps a bath. By using the recirculating pump and an optional waterfall or fountain, the pond is unlikely to freeze completely, even in frigid weather. When installing the pond, try to include shallow edges to allow easy access and exit for birds and other aquatic visitors. This is easier to do if you use a flexible liner rather than a pre-fabricated pond form from a garden center.

There are additional features you can add to a pond, or even a birdbath, to make your water feature more enticing. Dripping water can be especially attractive to warblers and other migrants. A water dripper can be purchased, but even a suspended bucket with a small hole can be effective. The addition of a mister will attract hummingbirds and other birds that will fly through the water vapor or bathe on nearby dripping leaves.

Having a pond creates a habitat for many interesting creatures. You may have dragonflies or damselflies stop by and water bugs skating on the surface. If you add some native aquatic or water-loving plants to your pond such as Pickerel Rush, Arrowhead, or Cardinal Flower, you can also attract butterflies to your pond area. Frogs and toads have an amazing way of finding ponds, and if you are lucky enough for them to lay eggs in your pond, you may have the privilege of watching them hatch, become tadpoles and sprout legs before they move on to eat insects in the surrounding habitat. This can be a fascinating process for both children and adults to witness.

There are even more options for creating water features in your backyard, including adding a stream or marsh. A marsh, which can be fed by water from roof runoff, can create a wonderful habitat. However, whatever water treatment you add to your property, whether simple or elaborate, is sure to bring nature’s creatures. You will have the satisfaction that you’ve helped to restore the natural ecology of your backyard. Plus, you’ve provided yourself and your family with many opportunities for pleasurable wildlife observation.