Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Bird Bath for Hummingbirds

Anna's Hummingbird photo by randomtruth
On a particularly anxious day some years ago, I glanced out the kitchen window, looking at the viburnum leaves, covered with with rain drops. Movement caught my eye—a hummingbird, diving chest first into the droplets, flailing her wings and splashing around in the microliters of water on the leaf. Because I'm a human and humans always look for meaning—especially when they're really stressed—I read a message in this brief, extraordinary scene: "Things will work out fine." And they did.

Hummers get plenty of liquid as they lap up nectar from a trumpet creeper bloom or from your feeder, so they don't need to drink from a bird bath as a Mourning Dove or Cedar Waxwing might. However hummingbird banders tell me that the feathers are often sticky with nectar, both natural and artificial, so they do need to bathe to keep their feathers in top condition. Hummers can bathe in a rain shower, or you can try to attract them with water by…
Providing a mist fountain. I use a connector with shut-off valves so I can have two hose lines. 
After I finish watering the container plants, I completely shut off the water. Then I open the valve on the line that leads to the mister. 
This little device will run a long time on the residual water pressure within the hose. 

An easier method is to hose down some large leaves. 

I hope you have a chance to see a hummer take a "leaf bath." If you do, and I'd love to see your photo!

For those of you keeping track, here in the Midwest, Anna's Hummingbird, seen in the photo above, is not one of our normal birds. In fact, there are only 5 records for the state of Missouri, most recently in 1997—the only record in my area. Thanks, Josh Uffman, for compiling, organizing, and sharing the state records. 

The charming photo of an adult male Anna's is by randomtruth, and I'd like to thank him for sharing his photo with a Creative Commons license. Be sure to check out his blog, The Nature of a Man. He wrote a terrific post about Anna's Hummingbird: California Christmas Ornaments.


  1. That's very cool, and something I'd never though of before. If you manage to get any photos of hummingbirds taking advantage of your handiwork, be sure to share them with us!

  2. Boy, Rebecca, I'd love to do that. Maybe one day I'll capture this behavior on digital photo of even video!

  3. Nature keeps us going, doesn't it?

  4. Excellent post, Anne. Was just telling a friend who was thinking about putting in a mister to make his ferns happier, that he would also likely make the hummers happy. Thanks too for the shoutout and the lovely words about my photography.


  5. Very interesting - I'd never noticed that I'd never seen a hummer take a bath before, not even when I lived where they were common.

    Only the ruby-throated makes it this far north in the Aspen Parkland and I only see them in my yard when they are coming and going. Alas, I think they are already going. Even the geese started south yesterday.

  6. What a beautiful little fellow, nice colored feathers! Great post again Anne, I enjoy reading your articles, big hug and wish you a great Sunday!

  7. Hi Randomtruth, I'll be interested to hear if your friend catches sight of any avian skinny-dippers!

  8. Hey Dave, I think you're right. Possibly one of your Alberta birds will drop by my yard soon. Geese and swallows are gathering down here too, staging for the migration.

  9. Thanks for the wishes, NiceArtLife! Hummingbirds are fun to watch, especially if the light is on those jewel-like feathers.

  10. That is really neat. I've never seen a hummingbird take a bath. I will have to keep my eye out for this after I water. We have several hummingbirds.

    Kateri @