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Building a birdbath

If you carefully observe the aerial space around your house, you will notice that besides sparrows, crows, pigeons, mynahs and bulbuls there are scores of other species of colourful birds flitting about the trees, shrubs, bushes, antennae, cable wires, terraces and balconies. Although you are bound to see a larger variety in winter, summer is a good time to create a bird sanctuary in your garden, park, backyard, terrace or balcony, to attract and offer sanctuary to birds. It is wonderful to have birds in your backyard because not only do they add colour and life, they also help control insect pests.

The first step towards attracting birds is to provide water. It is said that a single pool of water is worth a thousand plants because every creature needs water to survive. Birds need water to drink (especially in summer) and to keep themselves clean. They have anywhere between 940 and 25,000 feathers, so they have a lot of washing to do!

The hard part is making your birdbath ‘bird-friendly’. Most birds do not like too much sun. Nor do they like too much shade. So they won’t like it if the bath fully exposed (hawks can get them), or too deep in the bushes (cats can get them). Most birds prefer a bath that is partially exposed, with low vegetation under it but a tree or shrub nearby so they can land in it and hop or fly the short distance to the bath. Or fly from the bath quickly to the tree if danger approaches. Birds are used to bathing and drinking on the ground; terrestrial birds don’t care to enter water that goes above their legs. Most birds are attracted to birdbaths with dripping water. So after building the birdbath it’s important to watch the behaviour of the birds and accordingly relocate your bath to a suitable perch.

What you need:
1 Plastic tray bottom from a large flowerpot
2 Some smooth rocks
3 Two-litre soda bottle
4 Pushpin
5 String
Optional: decorations

Building your birdbath

Choose a large tray for your birdbath. If you don’t have a tray, use an old trashcan lid turned upside down. Just make sure you clean it well.
Pick out rocks for the birdbath. Look for rocks in your back yard. Rinse the rocks well so they don’t add dirt to your birdbath
Put the tray down and line the bottom of it with rocks. You need enough to cover the bottom.
If you like, add a small decoration to your birdbath such as a flagpole top from a garden centre or a yard frog. A piece of driftwood from an aquarium shop makes a perfect perch for a bird. Whatever you use, make sure it doesn’t take up too much space in the birdbath. Also that it can, in no way, hurt the birds. Keep in mind too that although birds like dripping water they don’t like shiny objects, which could frighten them away from the birdbath.
Now that you’ve set up your birdbath, you can prepare the waterworks. Turn a clean two-litre plastic bottle upside down and make a tiny hole in the bottom with a pushpin. The bottom of the bottle has thick parts and thinner parts. Make the hole at a thin spot, as the thicker plastic will be too hard for the pushpin to pierce. Use just the tip of the pin so that the hole is as small as possible.
To test the drip system, add water to the bottle and screw on the bottle cap. The water will flow in a stream at first, then slow to a steady drip. If the water continues to flow in a stream, make a smaller hole in another two-litre bottle.
It’s best to hang the drip bottle from a tree limb above the birdbath. Figure out, with help from a parent, where your birdbath should be so that you can determine how much string you’ll need to hang the bottle. Tie the string around the neck of the bottle… and you’re ready to set up your birdbath.

Take the birdbath and drip bottle into the yard. Set the birdbath on a small sturdy table, an old tree stump or a stack of bricks -- whatever is handy.

Add a few inches of water to the tray, and fill the bottle with water. Hang the bottle a few feet above the birdbath and let it drip onto the tray.

Make it a habit to replace water in your birdbath every other day, and scrub the whole thing well at least once a week to get rid of bird droppings and bacterial build-up. (You wouldn’t want to get YOUR drinking water from a tub in which dozens of people had been bathing and defecating, now would you?!)

Compiled from various sources by Shailendra Yashwant

InfoChange News & Features, May 2006

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