A couple of female Western Bluebirds hanging out at my new fountain.
Apparently, my bird seed experiment went so well that now there is a constant stream of finches lined up at my feeders and I’m going through suet like crazy. The suet cylinders are especially popular so I’m going through one every 5-7 days. Since the birds are going through them so quickly, it’s starting to get hard keeping them in stock and not running to WBU every month.
So, I started searching around the internet and multiple people mention water attracting birds. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, you get a larger variety of birds because all of them drink water but not all eat suet. Also, water is fairly cheap and in easy supply so it would mean a larger variety of birds and fewer trips to the store. So I started looking around.
The first major requirement was a shallow area where the birds could perch. I wouldn’t want to hang over the deep end of a swimming pool to drink water so I understand why birds don’t want to drink out of deep fountains. They need some place to land so they feel comfortable that they aren’t going to fall into the water.
So, this naturally lead me directly to bird baths. The problem with these is that you have to fill bird baths all the time and unless you get a water wiggler you get mosquito eggs. I know from previous experience that it’s just too dry in San Diego to be able to keep birth baths full and mosquito-free so I nixed this idea from the start.
Then I moved to the idea of commercially available fountains. The first problem I encountered is that most fountains like this are basically large deep bowls stacked on top of each other with cascading water. The water stream from one bowl to the next is pretty fast and thick, not the right conditions for birds to fly through to bathe. Also, the bowls are so deep that they might not feel comfortable drinking from them. My mom has a traditional wall fountain with two half bowls of water and never gets birds.
But, there are other fountains. The most colorful being the urn/pot fountains. This type of fountain has a underground reservoir that holds the majority of the water and recirculates it to the top using a pump. The reservoir is covered with rocks so it appears that the water flowing down the sides of the pot disappear into the ground. The effect is quite wonderful, but it causes a few issues:
- I live in an area where is the ground is full of rocks and is pretty hard. It would be difficult to dig down the 5 feet required to install one of these reservoirs.
- I have a curious and rambunctious little dog that would probably spend his days playing in and drinking from the gross bird water. I don’t want him dragging in mud into the house and I don’t want him to be able to drink from the fountain. That means the fountain bowls need to be high enough that he can’t reach them. This also has the added benefit of him not being able to harass the birds.
So, any sort of urn fountains are out, which is sad because this is my favorite type of fountain.
Bird Specific Fountains
This means that I need to find a fountain that doesn’t have a bowl within reach of my pooch and doesn’t have deep bowls so the birds will actually sit in it. This eliminates the majority of commercially available fountains I could find. However, there are several companies that make specific bird fountains. They are similar to millstone fountains where the water flows over a flat surface into a bowl underneath. They don’t hold much water, but they are made specifically for birds.
Maybe I’m just getting picky at this point, but why do all of them have to have ceramic birds on them? I don’t want my actual birds fighting for space around fake birds. Also, the colors that these come in are kinda a snooze-fest. I just couldn’t get excited by any of these. They also seem really hard to clean.
What’s a girl to do?
So, I kept an eye out for other fountains that I thought fit the bill better. I just knew that there had to be a better solution out there but I just couldn’t find it. I kept getting disappointed over and over looking at commercially available fountains that I started looking into ones that I could make myself.
The DIY Option
Most DIY solutions I could find were a variation on the urn/pot method where you take a pot and create a reservoir, which I already knew didn’t work for me. All the options seemed to involve lots of work until I started stumbling across the bamboo spout for pot fountains. You basically take any pot and add this bamboo spout connected to a pump and you have a fountain. Genius.
I found the bamboo fountain spout available at my local nursery and also on Amazon. The height of the spout relates to the diameter of the pot you use. It has a small pump that you place at the bottom of your pot that attaches to a tube that runs down the middle of the bamboo. Just put water in the pot, plug it in, and you’re good to go. Ta Da! Instant fountain.
Since birds don’t like deep water, I added some rocks from my yard to place in the bottom to give the birds something to rest on while taking a bath and drinking. I found that you need to really get flat rocks and place them at a slight angle so no matter how low the water level gets, the birds can walk down to the edge easily.
Initially, the introduction of the fountain freaked out all of the birds in the yard except the hummingbirds and my overall bird count dropped significantly. After a few days, however, the birdies were back at the feeder giving the fountain the stink-eye the whole time. It’s taken the neighborhood birds a week or so, but they are finally starting to use the fountain!
I’ve seen a HUGE spike in the diversity of the birds in my yard. They seem to be attracted to the water. Some just sit on the edges of the yard taking in the scenery, some dive right in. I’m hoping that over time the more hesitant birds will become braver. We’ll see.