Bird Baths and Water features
The provision of a clean water supply for wildlife is one of the simplest resources you can include in your backyard habitat. For those wildlife species that cannot acquire their water needs from the food they eat, a reliable water supply is essential, particularly during hot weather and dry periods.
Water can be provided in different ways, either by a bird bath on a pedestal, water dishes hanging in a tree or placed at ground level, a pond or formal water feature. It is recommended to have multiple water sources and drinking sites.
This will cater for different species needs and also provide alternate drinking sites should you have any aggressive birds that chase others away or neighbourhood cats.
On the groundA shallow dish such as a terracotta pot plant saucer, placed on the ground in a protected spot amongst vegetation and rocks will attract lizards, geckos, skinks and dragons, insects, butterfly’s and small ground dwelling mammals.
in the treesA shallow pot plant saucer or similar dish hanging in a tree will attract many birds and even arboreal mammals. Hanging shallow water bowls and dishes within the foliage of dense prickly shrubs provides protection for small birds such as wrens and finches coming to drink and bath. The prickly dense nature of the foliage will restrict access to larger more aggressive birds and limits a cats ability to climb into the shrubs to lay in wait.
On a pedestalA solid bird bath on a pedestal or stand is good for small and large bird species and will provide addition support for larger species to stand on the edge to drink or bath without it swinging around or spilling. Pebbles, a rock or an old brick can also be placed in the centre of the bath for smaller birds. A rough surface is also recommended to prevent smaller birds from slipping in when drinking.
Correct placement of bird baths to minimise predation, is critical. Cats can quickly work out the watering and feeding patterns of birds and other wildlife species and will lie in wait beneath or within vegetation and concealing objects. Ensure your bird bath is placed a safe distance from potential hiding sites and located in such a spot that, if startled or threatened, the birds can dart for cover into an adjacent bush or tree branch.
choosing a good LocationIn addition to choosing a safe location for your bird bath and additional drinking sites, it is also important to choose a shaded or partly shaded site. Water sitting in a shallow dish in direct sunlight will heat up very quickly. A dish of hot water in the direct sun will not be very welcoming to hot thirsty wildlife. Placing your birdbath and water sources in the shade will also reduce evaporation and potential for algal growth in the dish. In designing your backyard habitat and landscaping, consider views from within your house and look at placing features such as bird baths and drinking stations and food trees where you can enjoy watching your backyard neighbours from your office, lounge room, or kitchen without disturbing them. This will also allow incidental monitoring and observation on what species are using your backyard habitat.
important Hygiene tipsMany different birds and wildlife species may drink from and bath in your bird bath, or drinking stations. So it is important to regularly clean your bird bath and all water dishes every couple of days and fill with fresh clean water. To clean out algae or dirty stained dishes, never use soap or chemicals. Use a clean scrubbing brush or cloth (not used with household chemicals) and simply scrub clean.
To find out more about common backyard bird species, check out our Living with Wildlife page.
Understand your backyard features by completing a site analysis plan and habitat assessment. These tools are designed to get you thinking about the physical and environmental characteristics of your backyard, any existing habitat values and any features or constraints that will need to be considered when planning and designing your backyard habitat garden.
challenges, tools and games.
Useful Tips and Facts
- Create urban wildlife corridors and stepping stones to larger local bushland or parkland areas.
- In nature there is no such thing as waste everything is linked and contributes to the cycle. As a plant reaches the end of its life cycle it is not discarded by nature, instead it provides habitat for animals and food for micro-organisms as it lies on the ground, the waste from the micro-organisms, bacteria and fungi feeding on it replace nutrients and organic material to the soil for new plants to grow.
- Plant local native species
- The best way to attract native wildlife to your backyard is to provide a variety of healthy natural foods in the form of seeds, leaves, flowers, nectar, pollen, fruits and nuts throughout the year.
- The use of pesticides and herbicides can damage your soils and kill non target species. The poisoning of insects with chemicals can also cause larger species relying on those insects as a food source to become sick or even die from eating poisoned insects.
- To create habitat for smaller native birds you can grow shrubs close together to create dense corners or pockets in your garden which will provide protection and refuge from larger aggressive birds such as noisy miners
- Wattles (Acacias). While most wattles only live between 6 - 10 years, they are an important pioneer species which colonise disturbed areas, where other plants find it hard to grow. They improve soil conditions enough to allow other species to germinate and thrive by fixing nitrogen into the soil through their roots and adding high levels of organic leaf litter.