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Gardening for Birds | Water

Natural Sources

If you are lucky enough to have a river, stream, or other natural water body on or adjacent to your land, birds are likely to visit. Make sure the stream side vegetation is healthy. These areas provide corridors for wildlife to travel, nest in, forage, and raise their young.

A healthy riparian area will have:

  • A variety of mostly native plants
  • Dead trees (standing and fallen)
  • Abundant leaf litter
  • Undisturbed soil
  • The wider the vegetated area is, the better.


If you choose to construct a pond, or have one already, here are some important points:

  • Add native aquatic plants. Incorporate submerged, floating and emergent native aquatic plants to the pond for food, cover, nesting materials and to provide for insects.
  • Add native terrestrial plants to the edges! Plant native trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses around the pond for waterfowl.
  • Create Shallows. Certain waterfowl prefer to bathe and feed in water that is 2-3” deep.
  • Vary the Surroundings. Plant different habitat types around the pond. For example, trees and shrubs on one side and grasses on another.
  • Keep it Clean! Provide aeration and steady water flow. Avoid algae and weeds.

Bird Baths

Hosting birds means keeping a clean source of water.

Tips for the best bird bath:

  • Near, but not under, shelter. Place it close to woody brush and feeders, but avoid falling debris that mucks up the water.
  • Fountains or streams! Mosquitoes don’t like to lay eggs in running water. Also, the sound of running water attracts birds!
  • Warm it in winter. Add a heater to keep it useful year-round.
  • Keep it filled. Remember to add water regularly so the birds can rely on it.
  • Keep it clean! Rinse and scrub with nine parts water to one part vinegar but avoid soaps: they can strip oils from birds’ feathers.