Bird Watcher's General Store

Do Hummingbirds Use Birdbaths - 09/07/01


Dear Bird Folks,

All summer long I have been getting lots of wonderful hummingbirds at my feeder. I'd like to do more for them. I was thinking that they would like to cool off in a birdbath. Is there a special kind of birdbath that hummingbirds like?

Allison, Orleans

Yo Allison,

A lady called me with the same question last week. I told her to "forget it!" Since a hummingbird's legs are even shorter than a snake's, there is little chance that they will be able to use a birdbath. After I hung up the phone, I decided to look into the question further. And after a few hours of research, I learned two things. One, hummingbirds do, indeed, use birdbaths. And two, I'm a bonehead.

There are many reports of hummers using birdbaths. Although most birdbaths aren't made with hummingbirds in mind - they are way too deep - they will use baths that are very shallow (it's that short leg thing again). Hummers also like to splash in puddles of water that form on plant leaves or natural cavities. Lots of people have told me about hummingbirds flying through their sprinkler while they were watering their garden. Hummingbirds love to zip in and out of falling water (even I knew that) and then go to a nearby branch to preen.

Instead of buying a bath, it may be better to place a few shallow containers of water around your garden and hope one of your hummers finds it. A plastic saucer or Tupperware lid might do the trick. After all, as small as they are, hummingbirds are still birds and they need to keep their feathers clean and drink water. Also, because of all the sweet nectar they eat, they need to rinse out their mouths regularly or they could end up with serious tooth decay.

Thanks for the question, Allison, it helped me learn something new too. Now I have to track down that lady who called and tell her that I was wrong. Nah, forget that, I'll just tell her that she must have spoken to someone else.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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