Field Guide

En­tice birds with mov­ing wa­ter

Birds & Blooms - - Contents - BY SALLY ROTH

Most back­yard birds love to bathe and splash around in a clean birdbath, hum­ming­birds in­cluded! Although they oc­ca­sion­ally stop at a shal­low bath for a dip, these tiny birds pre­fer to wet their feath­ers by fly­ing through or sit­ting un­der a gen­tle spray. One of the best ways to trans­form your land­scape into a hum­ming­bird hub is to in­cor­po­rate a mov­ing wa­ter fea­ture.

Un­like other birds, hum­ming­birds want a light shower in­stead of a com­plete soak be­cause their pri­mary con­cern is sim­ply to get their feath­ers clean. Most of their other hy­dra­tion needs are met by all the sugar wa­ter and liq­uid flower nec­tar they slurp up.

Hum­ming­birds rinse off in the rain, at splash­ing streams or in the spray of wa­ter­falls, and you can re-cre­ate the same kind of nat­u­ral show­ers they love in your own back­yard. It’s easy!

To set up an in­ex­pen­sive so­lar foun­tain, you’ll need a basin deep enough to sub­merge a small pump or hold a float­ing model. The basin should be wide enough to catch and re­cy­cle the fall­ing spray. A clas­sic pedestal birdbath can work; its basin is usu­ally both wide and deep. But be­cause it may be too deep for hum­ming­birds, you should add stones if needed to keep the wa­ter shal­low.

Main­te­nance is fairly sim­ple, too. Make sure to keep an eye on the wa­ter level, es­pe­cially on windy days. Re­fill the basin as needed to as­sure that the pump doesn’t run dry.

The best thing about a so­lar foun­tain is that you don’t need an elec­tri­cal out­let, so you can put the birdbath al­most any­where. Just be sure that the small so­lar panel,

at­tached by a cord to the pump, is in di­rect sun­light. The foun­tain will tem­po­rar­ily stop spray­ing on over­cast days or if a large cloud moves across the sun.

Once you have a so­lar foun­tain bub­bling away, it’s time to amp things up. Add a tiny perch be­side it so you can watch one of these busy birds for a few ex­tra min­utes as it stops to buzz its wings and con­tort its body to catch ev­ery drop of wa­ter.

To make a rest­ing spot, choose a slim branch­ing stick (about 4 feet long) with twigs skinny enough for tiny feet to eas­ily grasp. Dead, twiggy branches that fall from maples and other de­cid­u­ous trees make ideal perches. Push the bot­tom of the stick into the soil be­side the basin to an­chor it. It’s even bet­ter if part of the branch ex­tends through the spray, so hum­ming­birds can have a spot right in the droplets.

Then just sit back and en­joy some spe­cial mo­ments of watch­ing zip­ping, preen­ing hum­ming­birds in your back­yard show­ers.

An Anna’s hum­ming­bird splashes in a back­yard bub­bler.

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