Birdbaths receive a wide range of visitors 24/7 making them intriguing venues for observing community dynamics and how to get along with others.
Of course, not all birdbath visitors are polite and friendly all the time, but everyone has a chance to get a drink of water, take a bath, chat with their neighbors, search for food nearby, or just hang out. Adding to the fun and diversity of interactions is that not all birdbath visitors are actually birds.
While I was writing Birdbaths Attract Birds to Your Yard, it occurred to me that besides being beautiful and engaging to watch, birdbath visitors provide ongoing demonstrations of cooperation, negotiation, and compromise.
Below are several photos and a few stories illustrating that all visitors are welcome at our birdbath and are usually well behaved.
Our yard is mostly wild and our birdbath draws visitors from the surrounding forest in which we live on the California Central Coast. If you have a birdbath in your yard, your visitors will likely be different from ours but we may have some in common, too.
Small and Medium Feathered Birdbath Visitors
By far, small to medium sized birds represent the largest percentage of our birdbath visitors from hummingbirds to crows.
Although we do not have birdbath hours posted, birds tend to come early in the morning or late afternoon. Generally, if more than one species of bird is visiting they will take turns with one group bathing and drinking while the other birds perch nearby on a bush or a tree branch. Sometimes birds of different species will share the birdbath especially if they are more interested in getting a drink of water than bathing.
Once the crows discovered our birdbath, they began bringing foodstuffs and tools when they visit. Crows are smart collaborative birds. They use water to soften dry bread pieces and other desiccated food bits and employ twigs and pebbles to open shells or to pry bark off dead trees to expose bugs.
Large Feathered Birdbath Visitors
Wild turkeys and turkey vultures are now regulars at our birdbath, but it was not always so.
One day a few years ago, I heard a noise outside of our home office and I thought, “That sounds like a turkey.” I got up and looked out the window and sure enough, it was a turkey making gobbling sounds as it cruised through our yard pecking and scratching the ground to turn up bugs.
It was not until the height of the drought that we began to see a flock of turkeys frequently visiting and drinking out of our birdbath. Turkeys are not big flyers but a few times, I have seen several turkeys fly up to stand on the rim or actually in the birdbath to get a drink while their relatives on the ground jostle for position around the basin.
Most afternoons, you can spot turkey vultures flying the ridge over our house but it took a couple of years for an adventurous one to try landing on our birdbath to get a drink.
Turkey vultures are large birds with 6-foot wing spans. They have bald red heads and large hooked beaks suitable for tearing off chunks of road kill making them unattractive birds, that is, until you get know them. The turkey vultures do not hassle other birds at the birdbath. They wait patiently up in one of the trees and then swoop down when it is empty.
Usually, the turkey vultures grab onto the edge of the birdbath, take several gulps of water, and then hurl themselves into the air. One day I looked out the window to see a turkey vulture standing in the middle of the dry (oops) birdbath. It was as if he or she was nonverbally saying, “Excuse me, could I please have some water?”
Furry Birdbath Visitors
There is no fence enclosing our yard so all manner of local furry inhabitants traverse it looking for food, shade, and occasionally partaking of the fresh water in our birdbath.
Various neighborhood cats visit our yard periodically to hunt for voles or field mice and perhaps with hopes of catching a bird unawares (fortunately, they never have). One hot day, I spotted this gray cat leaping up into the birdbath for a drink of water.
California mule deer are frequent visitors especially throughout the wet months when our yard is lush with grasses, perennial plants, and wildflowers. During the dry months, the deer visit to hang out and eat what food they can find.
At the height of the drought, we noticed an increase in birdbath traffic and for the first time, spotted a deer drinking from our birdbath.
Likely, other furry visitors such as raccoons, possums, and skunks visit our birdbath at night when we are asleep.
In the ten years, we have lived here, our birdbath has received thousands of visitors yet I have never witnessed one animal attacking or trying to harm another one at the birdbath. Sure, some skirmishes happen between birds especially when overcrowding occurs but they end in a compromise where no one gets hurt and everyone gets a turn at the birdbath.
Our birdbath visitors never cease to amaze and enlighten me.
If you have a birdbath in your yard, you have probably observed some interesting visitors and behavior yourself. Please share your own birdbath stories with other readers.
Featured Image at Top: Three Crows Hanging Out and Getting a Drink at Our Birdbath
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