Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.
For the past 45 days, I have driven over the Chain Bridge to get to work. And for the past 45 days the Potomac River has been roaring like I have rarely seen in my forty years of living in Virginia and Maryland.
The amount of water, the depth of the water, the explosive energy and enormity of the size of the river, at Chain Bridge, has been mesmerizing. And scary when you are stuck on the bridge in rush hour traffic barely moving, as you peer over the river that your non-moving car is sitting fifty feet above! Wishing hard that the light turns GREEN!
All this rain does keep the temperature down. Good for the fledgling birds and us. And all this rain will produce an abundance of insects and beneficial flowers that will later turn to seed.
Good for the birds — but bugs — not so much for us. And the rain is good for the grass which will grow and is good for… yeah we are going to visit this issue in a later blog.
But what happens as the hot sunny, DRY days hit?
Yesterday’s and yesterweek’s storms and water do not help the birds then. Water is vitally important when it is hot. Birds do not sweat. They must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system. A reliable source of water allows birds to bathe regularly, a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in flight top condition.
All birds need water and it does not have to be difficult or expensive.
Attract more birds by offering water in a bird bath. Elevated bird baths will help to keep the birds safe from “natural” predators.
Bird baths with sloped sides permit visitors to move from shallow to deeper water and they accommodate different sized bird that need to drink or bathe. A dripper, attached to the bird bath, will provide cool, clean water all day.
A mister when located near foliage, gives birds the opportunity to “leaf bathe.” Birds exhibiting this type of behavior will flutter against the wet plants or leaves to release droplets onto their feathers.
Whenever I am watering my flower garden or filling my bird bath dishes, I always look for a low leafy tree branch and spray, for a minute, the branch. Often, I will notice many different types of birds coming close to the branch for a chance to take a leaf bathe. It is a fun way to connect a little closer to the birds.
We are all aware of the potential for mosquito problems with open sources of water. Because of this many people will put a Water Wiggler (Solar or battery operated) in the bird bath. Water Wigglers agitate the water, creating ripples in the water. Mosquitos cannot/do not lay eggs in moving water.
Here is a fun way to get your young kids involved. Have them make a refillable bird bath dispenser. All you have to do is get a used 2 gallon soda or fruit juice plastic bottle. Flush and clean really well. At the large bottom of the bottle, attach a simple wire (it could be a wire coat hanger or picture framing wire) to the bottle. This could be installed inside the bottle or attached outside the bottle. Then take the bottle cap and poke or drill a pin size hole in the middle. Fill the bottle with water. Turn upside down, hang from a shepherd’s crook over the bird bath and the pool is open. Fill it up every morning and the birds will have fresh water most of the day.
We are all now jumping in the pool these hot summer days. Frolicking and splashing and having fun. Now get the birds pool open and keep it cold with fresh water. No lifeguards needed. But you will have fun watching. And you could blow the whistle if the young birds get to rambunctious.