Bird Lady Blog

July 26, 2014

Who’s in the Bath? Sadly, It’s Not Martha


Bird Bath Dripping

 

I wrote a few years ago that one of the least expensive ways to attract birds to your property was with water, and preferably running water.  Well, I had a lot of time the last couple weeks to prove that fact again to myself because I’ve spent many hours in front of a window that looks out at my dripping bird bath.  I had much client work to accomplish in June and therefore was spending more time than normal in the office, which faces the bird bath in our front yard. 

As you can see from the photo, I have a pretty simple set-up.  I have a large plastic garden pot tray as the bath with a rock or two to keep it steady.  I placed the tray on a cement block left over from construction.  Last year I kept the bath nearer to the ground, but a birding friend told me the higher placement makes the birds feel safer from potential predators.  Finally, the key is that I bought a water dripper from Wild Birds Unlimited and keep it slowly dripping during daylight hours.  The result?  Lots of bird visitors.

American Robins come regularly and take hearty baths, splashing water everywhere.  Another bathing bird was an Acorn Woodpecker, and that was the first time I ever saw any kind of woodpecker in a bird bath.  This one was a female.  I paid attention to its head – there was a black band on its forehead between the red crown and white face, indicating it as a female.  Black-Headed Grosbeaks also visit, and Lesser Goldfinches, Mountain Chickadees, and both types of Nuthatches even perch at times on the dripper itself to get a drop of water before it hits the tray. 

The bird that surprised me to taking a full body bath was a Band-Tailed Pigeon.  You probably have seen these around Munds Park, and if you have a feeder that a large bird can perch on, then most likely you have seen Band-Tailed Pigeons.  I recently read a blog by Sophie Webb that called this Pigeon an “under-appreciated species”, and I agree with her.  Do not get our Munds Park’s Band-Tailed Pigeons mixed up with Rock Doves (commonly called “Pigeons” or “Flying Rats” throughout most of the U.S.).  The Band-Tailed Pigeon is the only common forest pigeon in the country, and it is thought to be the closest relative to the now-extinct Passenger Pigeon.  For those of you who are interested in a little sad history, the last known Passenger Pigeon, named Martha, died in a Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914.  I remember as a little girl reading about this extinct species and thinking how sad it was that humans solely caused its extermination through over-hunting.  For those of you who want to know more, just do an internet search and you will learn about Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon (now stuffed and mounted in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History) and her extinct species.  A couple of centuries ago there used to be so many Passenger Pigeons that the sky was darkened by the large flocks blocking the sun.  Knowing that we will never see another living Passenger Pigeon again makes me appreciate the native Band-Tailed Pigeon species we have here in our forest.

 

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