A dome-shaped, UFO-look-alike object sends gentle ripples through the water in a birdbath located on the side yard of the nature shop Wild Birds Unlimited at busy MacArthur Boulevard in Springfield, Illinois.
The solar powered “water wiggler,” as the water feature in the middle of the birdbath is called, aims to agitate the water just enough to attract the attention of birds, who, hopefully, will stop by for a bath – and more.
“Moving water attracts attention, so as the birds are flying overhead, a still birdbath may not be spotted easily,” Wade Kammin, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited, said. “The ripples and sunlight get their attention, so when we add movement to the water, birds like that. It brings more in.”
Toys — or accessories — such as water features that promote fun activities can be an attraction for wild birds that otherwise flock to yards that offer food, water, shelter and a place for their “kids.”
“The more we can do to bring the birds in where we can watch them, the more fun it is,” Kammin said.
Food and fun
Wild Birds Unlimited in Springfield, Illinois, has an outside area that is a “Certified Wildlife Habitat,” through the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program. That program encourages people to create a “welcoming” haven for wildlife in their yards. Food, water, cover and a place to raise young make up a bird-friendly habitat, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Wild Birds Unlimited’s certified habitat serves as an example to its customers on what can be incorporated into their yards to attract birds. “Toys,” or what Kammin refers to as “accessories” such as the water wiggler in the birdbath, are part of the space.
Including objects in a yard that birds would use in their natural world would be appropriate, Anthony “Tony” Rothering, professor of biology, mathematics and sciences at Lincoln Land Community College, commented.
“Any kind of a water feature. It’s not necessarily a toy, but it really allows us to see a different side of birds, and water draws in birds,” Rothering said.
Prefab-type, koi ponds with water that birds can bathe in would be suitable, Rothering said. A solar water fountain in a birdbath can create a little spray.
“Those can really attract birds as well, and they really like moving water. They hear it, and they have excellent hearing, and so they can hear that, and it draws them in,” Rothering said.
Bubbler rocks can be placed in birdbaths to get moving water, Kammin said.
“Birds like to bathe in moving water. In nature, fresh water moves, and so it’s kind of a good sign there,” said Kammin, who added that goldfinches and chickadees, in particular, are drawn to moving water.
Swings and man-made tree
Hummingbirds seem to take well to the hummingbird swings that Wild Birds Unlimited sells.
“The hummingbird swings. Very popular. They really do use these. It’s taking advantage of a natural behavior,” Kammin said.
Because hummingbirds are territorial with feeders, they find nearby spots on which they can perch and guard their general feeding areas, Kammin said.
“In nature, that might be flying up and finding a little dead limb or maybe a telephone wire, something up higher where they can sit and watch down over their territory,” Kammin said. “Well, if we position one of those swings in a spot that’s not too far from the feeder but up a little higher, but it’s good for us to view, the hummingbirds often pick that as their choice, so they’ll come use that. It does get a little swinging action, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Kammin puts a hummingbird swing near a finch feeder.
“The finches will land on them, too, and you definitely get a little swinging action with the finches as they’re waiting their turn to use a feeder,” Kammin said.
Playing off the natural behavior of woodpeckers, which use their bills to drill and drum on trees, Wild Birds Unlimited offers woodpecker suet log feeders for sale. Made of pine by a local craftsman, the feeders have several holes in which food plugs can be placed.
“It’s taking a natural log, so it looks natural to the birds, kind of fun in the yard,” Kammin said. “It’s just something different as opposed to your standard commercial feeders…Woodpeckers certainly take to it really well, just like they would from feeding from insects in a tree.”
An artificial tree made of a modular set called the “Advanced Pole System” and real tree limbs has been getting good use from birds visiting Wild Birds Unlimited’s habitat area. A container of an all-natural cotton product, a material that birds can use to build nests, hangs from one of its limbs.
“Right now, our goldfinches are starting their nesting because they’re the latest to nest each year, so they’re coming up and pulling little fibers out and … they’ll take that to build a nest,” Kammin said. “It’s something that they can certainly use, and it makes their job a little easier, and it gives us something that we can really watch.”
The artificial tree also serves as place for birds coming and going from feeders, causing the birds to visit the feeders two to three times more frequently than if there were no such area, Kammin said.
“If they have a spot they can land, get their bearings, see who else is at the ‘restaurant,’ see if it’s too crowded, and then fly in, it’ll actually draw more birds because they feel safe doing that,” Kammin said.