Top tips for looking after thirsty backyard birds this summer

Media release
19 December 2019

A Deakin wildlife expert is urging people to provide plenty of water – and even ice cubes - for backyard birds this summer, as the long dry spell and early fire season continue to devastate native animal populations.

Wildlife ecologist Dr Gráinne Cleary from Deakin University's Centre for Integrative Ecology said birds and indeed other wildlife may move into urbanised areas looking for water and it was important to look after them.

"Many water sources are already drying out because of the current drought and bushfire activity, so birds will be on the hunt for water and new habitat and we need to make them feel welcome," Dr Cleary said.

"People should put out plenty of water and, on extremely hot days, even add some ice cubes to the water to keep it cool."

Dr Cleary said it was important to provide lots of drinking options as different birds require water in different ways.

"Traditional pedestal bird baths are good for bigger birds such as magpies but smaller birds like superb fairy wrens and yellow robins prefer smaller bowls, close to vegetation," she said.

"You can make a bath out of almost anything and we have seen birds using pots or old buckets filled with water."

Dr Cleary said putting a rock in the middle of the bird bath or sturdy branches across the top of the water gave smaller birds an easy to reach perch, especially if the water is a bit deep.

"Birds are very vulnerable when they’re wet so it is important to provide them with shelter so they feel comfortable and safe while their feathers are drying out after their bath," Dr Cleary said.

"Putting at least one of your bird baths on the ground will also give other native wildlife a cool place to relax.

"We know echidnas will swim in a bird bath if given the opportunity and we have even had koalas drinking from baths."

Dr Cleary, author of the book Your Backyard Birds said pet dogs and cats were a potential threat to birds and needed to be locked in at night.

"While cats are a big threat to birds, dogs are a threat to koalas who may come looking for water in urban areas, too.

"And it is also important your bath is clean so give them a good scrub to keep them disease free and freshen the water regularly."

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Media release Faculty of Science Engineering and Built Environment, School of Life and Environmental Sciences Centre for Integrative Ecology (CIE)

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