I have never once seen a bird take a bath in a birdbath. They all just sit on the side and talk to each other, migrating one at a time to the feeder that is inevitably right next to the bath. The birdbath then sits there, idly awaiting to undergo a challenge testing its true purpose. But it does not come.
It rained today. A lot. In fact, as I looked out my window at the downpour, I noticed my sunroof was cracked open a little, so I ran out in the downpour to close it and hurried back inside. Call it ironic, but not five minutes later the cloud slid east and bright beautiful sunlight took its place upon the grass, the gravel and the puddles that filled the many potholes of the unpaved driveway.
A few minutes later after I’d already changed the music and gone back to my work, I peeped out the window one more time to admire the scene:
A bird was bathing in a puddle.
A deep, muddy, rock-lined puddle in an unpaved driveway filled with dirt, glass, rubber and paper in New Paltz; this was where the bird chose to wash itself.
Now, I have never once seen a bird take a bath in a birdbath and they are clean, smooth basins of fresh water. One would think that a bird would be quicker to bathe in that than in the muddy puddle outside my crappy apartment.
Being that there is no birdbath on this property, I do not blame this particular bird for choosing the puddle as it is all that was available to him at the time. However, the haste and nonchalance with which he simply plopped in, shook his tail and tip-toed out dipping his beak in the water three times, made me wonder why other birds who do have access to clean baths don’t use them as willingly.
Perhaps they are cautious. Food is one thing, if a bird sees another eating from a birdfeeder and they are hungry, they will presumably follow suit without much thought of potential consequence as they are simply thinking of survival and filling their tiny bellies.
However, water is different. If the birds grew up knowing that rainwater is fresh and clean, which it often is, then they will trust it for their baths over water that came from a hose or a pitcher and was placed there not by nature but by us strange, tall, smelly humans – there could be anything in that water. I mean, birds are very smart and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could reach that level of logical thinking.
But then I thought of how many birdbaths I’ve seen in my life with birds near but not in them that were in fact filled with rainwater from the last time it rained. Why didn’t the birds trust that rainwater?
The birdbaths were made of stone so they were as much a part of nature as the gravel that lined the pothole. Not to mention they had already been through a storm so they were cleansed of anything left on them from production. It could just be that those birds in the suburban backyards just didn’t feel like taking a bath that day, but I don’t know.
There must be an answer. Unfortunately, I can’t talk to the birds to find out. If anyone can and is willing to ask for me, my email is in the byline, please let me know what they say. Thank you.