Quiet Time is Also Bathing Time for Our Songbirds
by Ro Wauer
On my morning walks around my neighborhood, I hear very few birdsong this time of year. Of course, there is the occasional, but shorten songs of mockingbirds. And a few other birds make themselves known by an occasional call note. This morning during my two-mile walk I heard only a few distance crows, a titmouse, Bewick’s and Carolina wrens, and the soft coos of Inca doves. It seems as if our birds are exhausted from their long breeding season, and are now resting up for the upcoming winter season.
My yard birds, those that reside in and around my yard, are a little more obvious. Those birds spend considerable time there because of my three birdbaths and various seed and hummingbird feeders. The hummingbird feeders are still active, although the massive number of migrating hummers has already passed by on their southward journeys. The birdbaths may be used by more birds than any of my other avian attractants. Although the birdbaths don’t have the appeal as they did during the hottest part of the summer, they still are popular.
Most of my yardbirds this time of year only use the birdbaths for drinking, but some individuals will also bathe. Cardinals seem to bathe on a regular basis, although some of their neighbors, such as the Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, and Carolina wren, seem to bathe less often. The white-eyed vireo - another of my resident birds – may be the cleanest of the group, if that term applies to songbirds. This little bird is seen constantly at a birdbath, and it utilizes a very different bathing technique than the others. It will perch on an adjacent branch and then fly swiftly down to the water, barely touching the surface, and then immediately fly back to a perch and preen. It will do this time and time again. Even from a distance it is easy to identify the white-eyed vireo because of its unique technique.
There are a few birds that will simply plop down into the birdbath and sit there, as if it is expecting someone to come along and help. The red-shouldered hawk provides the best example of this method, in spite of its large size. It will fly in to the ground-level birdbath, sit for a few minutes nearby, checking in all directions for danger, and then walk over and sit inside the pot; I use a two-inch deep flowerpot. At times the hawk may remain for 15 to 20 minutes, dipping down now and then and afterwards shaking its wings to shed the water. The preferred birdbath is too shallow to allow for a really good bathe. It occasionally will just sit still, letting its wings droop like it is totally relaxed.
I have set up a dripper to supply constant water to all my birdbaths. Birdbaths with drippers that noisily splash on the surface seem to attract the greatest number of birds. These birdbaths attract a surprising number of migrating birds. They are like a bird-magnet for any passing birds. They have attracted a wide variety of songbirds, from various warblers, to orioles and tanager, and vireos. Yellow-billed cuckoos also like to bathe and drink.
Although I also use four or five seed-feeders, as well as a suet feeders in winter, the birdbaths get the greatest attention. Not all birds feed on seed, nectar, or suet, but all birds bathe.