Wild birds need water for two important functions:
- Water is the basic element of nutrition, and birds need clean, fresh water to drink. Because of urban sprawl and flood control programs, ponds, pools and streams no longer provide good water sources for our outdoor friends. A well-maintained birdbath is required to provide birds with clean, fresh water. However, remember that wild birds are more used to natural water sources such as rain and spring water. Tap water can contain chlorine and fluoride that may cause nutrient imbalances. It is important that when using tap water for wild birds to make sure that the bird food you use contains added vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants such as Vitamin A and Vitamin E should be added to the food. (ManyBetter Bird™ blends contain added levels of these nutrients.)
- Water is critical in preventing heat stress during hot months. Water is also required for bathing. Birds use water to clean themselves. This helps prevent many diseases to which birds are susceptible and also helps prevent mites and lice. Birdbaths should be placed in areas that are accessible to birds. Water should be changed or replaced daily, and the birdbath should be cleaned regularly to prevent the growth of algae, mold and bacteria. During winter months, water supplies often dwindle due to freezing in colder climates. A heater should be used in the birdbath.
Birds do not have teeth and thus cannot chew. The bird’s gizzard helps grind up seed that is swallowed. To accomplish this grinding process, “grit” is a required nutrient. There are several forms of grit available. Commercial grits can be purchased and mixed with the bird’s food. These products include calcium carbonate, oyster shell and other commercially available products. Often birds will be seen at the side of gravel roads or streambeds consuming sand, small pieces of rock, etc. in order to obtain grit.