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Ways to Support Garden Birds in Times of Drought

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Plants aren’t the only beings that suffer in prolonged drought; garden birds can feel the pinch of low water, too. Here are ways to help songbirds through dry times, beyond the usual birdbath:

garden birds in birdbath

First, the birdbath is indeed important. Place it in shade, which will keep the water fresher and help the garden birds feel more secure. Check the water level daily. Several times a week, empty the water, thoroughly rinse the basin and refill it with fresh water. Consider using multiple birdbaths of different sizes and styles at different spots in the garden, including ground-level types.

The National Wildlife Federation recommends reusing a plastic jug or bottle as a dripper over your birdbath. Just poke a tiny hole in the bottom, fill it with water and hang it over the birdbath. The drip of water leaking from the hole and dropping into the basin will attract the garden birds.

Generally we recommend removing bird feeders during the summer months when birds can find natural food sources. This is also key wherever bears may be present, as they will eat from bird feeders and it teaches them to associate homes with food. However, where bears are unlikely visitors, bird feeders can be a great aid to garden birds in times of drought. Plants that typically provide seeds and fruits may be unproductive or dead. Insects that make up much of the birds' summer diet may be burrowing too deep under the ground, away from the dry surface, where birds can’t reach them. Providing seed in feeders will help garden birds feeling the pinch of these circumstances.

Similarly, maintain your garden in a way that supports natural food sources. Don’t keep it too tidy; allow debris to gather beneath plants and structures so that insects may find habitat there and then be found by foraging birds. If you’re not restricted from watering your plants, water those that create seeds and fruits for the garden birds. Keeping them healthy will result in a good crop for the birds.

Recommended related reading:

The National Wildlife Federation’s Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife covers all the practices and plants that will help you welcome birds and more to your garden.

What It’s Like to Be a Bird is a unique field guide that helps you not only identify backyard birds but also explains their behaviors and motivations. This engaging and accessible text is a great resource for new and experienced birders and bird gardeners alike.

Image: Koshy Koshy/Wikimedia Commons