Part of a large birdbath - more like a swimming pool

Part of a large birdbath – more like a swimming pool

The recent heatwaves have been very hard on urban wildlife & the majority of news reports I have read say that we should expect more of this kind of weather in the future.  If you look around you will realize that there really isn’t much in the way of water supply for urban wildlife in Marrickville LGA.  Apart from the small amount of water that may or may not be in local storm water channels or a bowl some kind person has put under a tap in a park, there is no water supply for birds to have a drink.  Forget lizards.  Most urban wildlife rely on water sources on private property.

Personally, I think it would be good for all parks to have birdbaths.  The only birdbath I have seen is in Maundrell Park Stanmore, but it was filled with concrete.

A friend has what I think is a perfect water source for all kinds of wildlife.  She has a ground level pond.  It has a variety of rocks around the edge that allow frogs safe passage in & out of the water.  Around the edge of two-thirds of the pond are a range of plants of varying height from groundcovers right up to small dense foliage trees that hang over the pond giving protection for small birds.  The life in her garden is proof that food-producing trees & plants & fresh water in a safe place will bring in the wildlife.

If you do have a pond you can make it more suitable for frogs by putting a pipe from the edge & into a shallow end of the water as this will allow frog to enter & exit safely, plus offer a nice hiding place.  Terracotta pipes are perfect, as they also look good.  Small branches around the edge of the water & varying depths are also good for both frogs & birds.  You want to make the edge of your pond so a lizard can safely drink without falling into deep water & so they can get out if they do fall in.  A large flat rock in the middle of the pond offers a nice safe place for birds if your pond is big enough.

You don’t need to have a pond to help wildlife though.  Birdbaths on pedestals are great as long as the bowl is deep enough.  I have seen birdbaths in shops that are more ornamental than useful.  I wouldn’t choose an iron birdbath as these would rust.  A major hardware superstore usually has terracotta birdbaths that are both cheap & attractive & I have seen plastic molded birdbaths that do the job for even cheaper.

If the inside of the bowl is glazed or too deep, put some pebbles on the bottom & up the sides so that a small bird can walk its way out if needed.

Birds like to assess the area for safety before going to drink.  It is good to have a dense shrub close-by, but not so good to hide the birdbath in the middle of shrubs.  Birds like to see what is coming & have time to get somewhere safe if they feel threatened.   Of course, do your best to put the birdbath out of reach of cats, though this isn’t always easy with cats roaming the streets.  We chose the front garden for our birdbath & so far it has been fine.

Birds prefer cool water so placing the birdbath under dappled shade is best if you can.   Ours is not & is still used both day & night.

Change the water often so it is clean & check daily to see if it needs a refill, especially on warm days. Large splashing birds can remove a surprising amount of water.

The bottom of the birdbath can grow algae.  Never use bleach or other cleaning products on a birdbath. Just use a brush to remove algae or any dirt.

Ponds & birdbaths cost money.  A large pot plant saucer on the ground in a sheltered space works just as well.  In fact, any kind of low flat container will do the job.  The most important thing is to provide safety & a way of getting in & out.  Pot plant saucers work well because they have a ledge around the side allowing birds to perch. It’s nice to add some pebbles both in the saucer & leading up to the saucer so small lizards can get in & out.

I know someone who put a pot plant saucer in among the plants in their front garden & the birds were there drinking 2-hours later.  Somehow they know when water is about.

Adding a source of drinking water for urban wildlife will make their lives a lot easier & quite possibly save their life during the really hot days.  You will benefit by having wildlife come to your garden.  Birds are wonderful to watch.  Before long they start interacting with you because they are happy & this for us at least, brings us great joy.