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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The water needs of north Texas birds

   Birds need water every minute of every day, all year long.  Especially when it’s hot or cold out! Since they also need to fly, they can’t store water in body fat like most animals. They must constantly get water either in its liquid form or as a component of the food they eat. Since birds live an active life, they lose water at a rapid rate. The smaller a bird is, the greater its daily water loss. 
Since a big part of water loss is due to the air temperature, north Texas birds need A LOT of clean water, all year long.    In the summer, a birdbath is essential.     

In warm weather, a small, inexpensive “dunk” floating in the birdbath kills mosquitoes, but won’t harm birds or pets at all.

If you’re planning to put out a birdbath, remember that birds frighten easily. They’re small and (except for a few species) swim poorly. They shy away from water that’s more than 2½-3 inches deep.  Birds also prefer a bath with a gradually sloping bottom, instead of a sudden drop to the birdbath’s full depth.

Birds want a quick ”escape route” in case a hawk or some other predator gets close. Putting the birdbath next to shrubs or overhanging tree limbs is good. Setting the bath in the middle of a plain lawn makes it doubtful that many birds will use it.

Dead trees  or  “snags”

Many kinds of Texas birds are ”cavity-nesters”, such as bluebirds, titmice, wrens, cave swallows and chickadees. They make their homes and raise young in the hollows of dead trees and limbs (often in old woodpecker hole). Insects in the dead bark are an important food source for nuthatches and chickadees.  So if you don’t like the looks of a dead tree (and it’s not in danger of falling on your house) think about just growing a vine on it.  In our “Cross Timbers” area, try a coral honeysuckle, passion vine or Virginia creeper.

       Owen Yost, in addition to blogging, is a Landscape Architect emeritus from here, whos worked in north Texas for over 30 years.  He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Society of Landscape Architects, the National BirdFeeding Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Native Plant Society of Texas. His design office is at  

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