Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Backyard Water Features are For The Birds

If you have the right features in your yard, not only will the year round avian residents thank you but so will migrating flocks, large and small. Water features are one of the best things to add to your backyard to attract birds so you can get a chance to watch their natural behaviours.

I have a fairly large backyard water feature. It is composed of a waterfall that flows into a short stream section that flows into a pond. The stream section is shallow so that birds can get a drink or bathe. Last week we had small flocks of several species of birds visit all at once along with some of the regulars. In addition to the stream, they also used a portion of the top shelf of the pond for bathing. It is interesting to watch how different birds approach a water source. Some are more wary than others and will look around for quite a while before dipping their head to get a drink. Then they take a quick sip and fly off. Some repeatedly guzzle until you wonder if they will be too heavy to take off. Others, especially larger songbirds like mockingbirds and blue jays, seem to prefer to drink from the edge of the waterfall. When bathing, some will dunk themselves repeatedly or even just hang out in the flowing water, while others take a quick splash and retreat to the cypress to wait to dash in again or preen.

One morning last week, this water feature was like a magnet. First I noticed the robins. They hogged the stream for bathing and drinking. I have a bald cypress and a bird feeder near the stream that other small birds started to gather at. A flock of cedar waxwings were like ornaments in the cypress. When the robins left the stream it was fair game for everyone else to move in. And move in they did, darting in and out. Joining the fray were a brown thrasher, yellow-shafted northern flicker, blue jays, cardinals, yellow-rumped warblers, house finches, dark-eyed juncos, goldfinches, tufted titmice, mourning dove, a wren and some other LBBs (little brown birds) that I was not able to quickly identify.

While I am used to seeing birds visit my backyard regularly, this intensity and variety does not happen all that often and it is such a treat when it does. I have included a couple of pictures I took of birds bathing that morning. There is a yellow-rumped warbler and a goldfinch in the first one and a male house finch in the second photo.

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