Just like humans, wildlife need water. They use it for drinking and bathing, and some animals live in water or need it for reproduction. Just about any stand of water in your yard, from a tiny puddle to a pond, will be used by one kind of animal or other.
Provide wildlife with a reliable source of water and you’ll soon notice lots of activity around it. The marketplace is filled with beautiful and unique fountains, cascading water features and elaborately designed pond kits, but wildlife will also be satisfied with something as simple as a large saucer of always-fresh water.
A birdbath is a paradise for birds, mammals and insects on hot, dry days. In arid habitats, it’s an oasis that may save a life. The sight of a bird standing in one as he douses his head, dips his feathers and spreads his wings for a fine cleaning is picture-perfect, isn’t it?
Birdbaths are common in summer, but few people think of providing water in winter. A heated birdbath kept filled through the freezing cold of winter may be the only ready source of unfrozen water for wildlife in your entire neighborhood. Heated birdbaths maintain a temperature just above freezing, so they only cost pennies a day to use. If you had to make a choice, the winter birdbath would probably do more good for wildlife than a summer one.Never add anti-freeze to birdbath water. It’s poisonous to birds (and all other animals, too).
Birdbaths should slope and be no more than three inches deep in the center. Too deep and smaller birds won’t enter the water. You can raise the bottom of a too-deep birdbath by placing in it a large flat-surfaced stone for birds to stand on. A rough surface is best; it helps birds keep their footing.
- Place it where you can watch the activity.
- Place it near a “staging” area. Birds like to approach from the safety of a nearby shrub or tree.
- Watch for cats. If birds are being caught while bathing, move the birdbath to a safer spot.
- Place it where you can easily access it for cleaning and filling.
- After dark, you might see raccoons, opossums and other climbing animals using it.
- Consider placing a second birdbath flat on the ground (no pedestal) so rabbits and other non-climbers can access it.
Consider a pond
A pond, even a very small, simple one like you see in this photo, can be an interesting addition to your yard. It may also become a lifeline for certain animals: Frogs, toads, dragonflies and, of course, fish are among those who flourish in a pond environment.
A pond doesn’t necessarily require a water pump for circulation — frogs, for example, prefer still water and will thrive living among a water lily or two. Hanging in the water or sitting motionless on a water plant, they wait for a hapless insect to come along, then — faster than our eyes can see it — they’ve used their tongue to snatch up a tasty insect.
If digging a pond isn’t for you, consider a whiskey half-barrel or a rigid plastic container. It can become a beautiful “miniature pond,” hosting plants, fish and frogs.
Other water sources
Saucer of water –– Set out a saucer containing water and pebbles. Make sure the pebbles aren’t totally submerged. Place this on a pedestal or table near nectar plants. Butterflies and other insects may appreciate it.
Mud puddle — Butterflies sip from puddles. All it takes is a small area of dirt or sand kept wet near your butterfly garden. A slowly dripping garden hose may be all you need to keep the puddle a puddle.