The History of Birdbaths and Birdfeeders

bird_feederThe invention of birdbaths and birdfeeders came about when humans started living in villages.  While we liked the convenience of city living we still desired to have wildlife around us.  Some wildlife was easy to attract due to our habitats but quickly became a nuisance.  Birds, on the other hand, were attracted to our crops and in doing so could become a problem.  But through the study of birds or ornithology, we quickly learned how to attract birds that brought pleasure verses those that could destroy crops.

To attract birds to your backyard, one must provide the basic requirements of life.  One of the easiest things that you can provide birds is a source of water.  The first birdbaths were depressions in the ground, shallow streams, holes in rocks or any other surface that would hold water.  Birds would land near the area to drink and bathe.  As mankind observed this behavior, they desired to mimic it.  The Pulham & Sons Company developed the first recorded birdbath in Europe in the 1840s.  This company specialized in rockery, garden fountains and outdoor ornaments.  They also made fountains, which became the forefather of the birdbaths.  Today, many different styles of birdbaths can be found.  This includes ones that light up, such as the Country Gardens Solar Birdbath and a hanging version, such as the Whitehall Rose Hanging Birdbath.

The next requirement that one needs to meet when attracting birds is food.  While there are natural plants that can be planted to attract birds, another approach is to provide them with a feeder.  But this technology did not happen over night.  The first report of someone feeding birds in the United States came from Henry David Thoreau.  It was stated in 1845 that he was feeding birds on Walden Pond.

The first bird feeder to be commercially made was for the hummingbird.  Today there are a wide vary of bird feeders to choose from.  Some of these are platforms while others are simple mesh socks or house shaped seed dispensers.  The key to using a bird feeder is simple.  First, to keep the squirrels out of the feed, consider one with a squirrel guard, such as the Squirrel Proof Thistle Bird Feeder.

To hang your bird feeder, consider using a hook, such as the Whitehall Oakleaf Nature Hook.  This hook will allow you to hang your bird feeder safely and correctly.  If you plan to view your birds from a window, do not place the bird feeder any closer then three feet from the window.  This will prevent birds from flying into the window and injuring themselves.

To attract more birds to your birdbath and/or feeder, place these items near shrubs and trees.  This will provide cover for the birds and in doing so will mimic their natural environment.

Once you have your birdbath and feeder set up, the next thing you will want to get is a bird first aid kit. This kit is equipped with basic first aid equipment that can be used to help a bird until you can get it to the veterinarian.

If you have interest in bird watching and would like to contribute to science, consider participating in Cornell University’s citizen-science projects.  These include Project Feeder Watch and Backyard Bird Count.

Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.

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