Drippers and Misters
Drippers and misters are wonderful additions to any type of bath. They create the sound of moving water which birds find almost impossible to resist.
Birds that come to feeders will find a nearby bath even if it doesn’t have a noise-making feature. Birds that don’t normally come to feeders, however, will be attracted to the sound of dripping or running water and will add to the diversity of species found in your backyard.
Just remember the ice cream analogy: A bath without sound is like a single-dip vanilla cone, but one equipped with moving water is a banana split with all the toppings! Which one would you choose?
Unlike re-circulating fountains or baths, misters and drippers require no electricity. Most commercial products provide enough plastic tubing (usually 50 – 60 feet) to connect to an outside water source. Kits usually include a y-shaped adapter that screws onto your existing faucet which allows you to continue to use your garden hose while the dripper or mister operates.
Timers are also available and can be programmed to turn misters or drippers off and on at certain hours so you don’t have to remember to do so. Burying the tubing underground will buy a little extra seasonal operating time in areas where winter temperatures drop below freezing.
Commercial drippers are usually consist of a small copper tube attached to a water faucet. A small valve is used to regulate the flow of the water down to a dripping action. The sound of the water, even though it is not very loud, attracts birds.
Drippers come already installed in some baths, resulting in no work at all other than connecting the tubing to the water source. They also come separately in many varied styles. Some are connected to a small platform, some are freestanding, others attach to the rim of a bath, and some even come in dripper-mister combinations.
Dripper in a pedestal birdbath. The black tubing feeds a small amount of water into the copper tube, which drips into the birdbath.
A simple dripper can be made from an empty plastic gallon milk jug by poking one tiny hole in the bottom corner with a needle and another in the cap, which is used to control the speed of the drips. Hung with rope or on a shepherd’s hook over an existing bath, these homemade drippers can last for up to 12 hours, making them practical if not beautiful. You can also place a slowly dripping garden hose a few feet above a bath with the same results, but most of us need the use of our garden hoses for other things. Some commercial drippers make lovely additions to any garden or backyard habitat.
An astute birder who observed birds bathing in a lawn sprinklers may have invented misters. Then again, maybe it was someone who simply had the chance to see birds “leaf-bathing” in a natural setting.
Birds in the wild often have a hard time finding fresh water to drink and bathe in so they use the dew or rain droplets on leaves for these purposes. Small birds like warblers or hummingbirds are leaf bathers. Surprisingly, much larger birds like cardinals and orioles also prefer this method of bathing. Misters spray fine droplets of water on tree leaves, providing the birds a safe place to bathe and drink.
One approach is to place your mister in a location where the water will collect on the leaves and then drip into a bath below, thereby creating your own mister/dripper combination!
Otherwise, placing your mister in an area with lots of cover will help the birds feel safer while bathing. They are usually secured in a vine or a small leafed shrub such as a virburnum by attaching it to a branch.
Leaf misters are simply a misting nozzle and tubing attached to a check valve that regulates the flow of water. Commercial units usually provide connecting tubing and a “Y” valve to aid installation. A timer can also be used to turn on the dripper in the morning, and off in the evening.
Commercial units are usually priced in the range of $30.00 to $40.00.
Don’t worry about the water that finds its way to the ground around the baths with drippers or misters, as there are some birds that will bathe in the small “puddles” as they would in their natural habitat. Others, like robins and swallows, will use the mud in the construction of their nest.
Feel free to create your own combinations as you develop your backyard habitat. For instance, you could position a hanging bath equipped with a dripper a few feet above a pedestal bath. Water overflowing from the upper bath will land in the lower, doubling the sound.
When it comes to baths and water features, you need only remember two things: “The more, the merrier” and “The noisier, the better!”
You need to know…
Drippers and misters can be damaged beyond repair in freezing weather. Make sure the lines are drained during freezing weather.