While the Speckled Pigeon inaugurated the new position of the birdbath, I have had the pleasure of watching it being visited by Bronze Manikins too. First, there was one:
The small bird bath we were gifted over a year ago has provided good service from where it was positioned in the shade of a vachellia (acacia) tree. Constructed from solid concrete, it is very heavy for its size. I have at last mustered the strength to roll it across the lawn and heave it into a much more appropriate place in the little flower bed next to our pool. Here I get the benefit of seeing the visitors and they are only a hop away from thick shrubbery should they need shelter in a hurry. A Speckled Pigeon was the first to inspect it:
And so it is that the new position of this bird bath has gained its seal of approval. It has since been used by weavers, doves, bulbuls, barbets and a host of other birds.
Bird baths provide an incentive for birds to visit one’s garden. This is because water is not only essential for drinking, but birds also bathe in it and preen themselves afterwards. Bathing is important for the maintenance of bird feathers as it keeps them clean and fluffed: the water helps to remove dust, loose feathers, parasites and other debris from a bird’s plumage
While a variety of commercially-produced bird baths are available, any fairly shallow object that holds water can be used. I have used drip trays from large flower pots, pet bowls, and even an upturned dustbin lid for this purpose. The most frequently used bird bath in my garden at the moment is an upturned lid of a garden lamp that ceased working decades ago!
This might be because it is on the ground, where it is visited by Olive Thrushes, Red-winged Starlings, weavers and doves. Other birds, such as Cape White-eyes, Cape Robin-chats, and the Bronze Manikins prefer the natural stone bath that has plenty of cover nearby for them to escape to if necessary.
It is best to place bird baths near natural shelter – even if one placed out in the open may look more attractive from a human perspective. Birds are more likely to use a bird bath regularly if they feel safe. One like this is more likely to attract larger birds such as Red-eyed Doves.
The larger of the two commercially produced bird baths in my garden has plenty of cover only a wing-beat away if birds need to shelter from potential predators. Black-eyed Bulbuls, Olive Thrushes and Cape White-eyes seem to enjoy the extra space available for them to bathe in. I have also noticed a pair of Knysna Turacos drinking from it when they think no-one is watching!
Although the larger bird bath has a sloping rigid lip that birds can perch on, both it and a more recently acquired one are actually too deep for comfort and so I have added smooth stones to provide more footholds. Whatever you use as a bird bath, you are bound to experience a rich dimension to your gardening pleasure. It is both calming and interesting to watch birds drinking, bathing and preening themselves.
Bird baths also benefit the bees, wasps and butterflies that visit your garden. It is important to keep your bird baths filled with fresh water and to give them a good scrub with a rigid brush every now and then to prevent a build-up of algae. The provision of fresh water will benefit birds visiting your garden throughout the year.