Australian Magpies on a hot day

Australian Magpies sitting in the bird bath on a hot day (43C or 109F)

As I write this article the temperature has just topped 43C (109F) under our back veranda. I haven’t seen or heard many birds all morning which is understandable. As we were having lunch we watched three of our resident Australian Magpies sitting in the bird baths. They came to sit in the water and occasionally have a sip of water.

Before lunch I filled a bucket of fresh rainwater to top up three of the bird baths we have in our garden. The magpies shown in these photos moved only about a metre away while I tipped in the water. They obviously were too hot to move further away. As soon as I left they were back in the water again and have stayed there for the last few hours. Can’t say I blame them. It’s mighty hot out there.

During lunch the only other birds to come for a drink were a solitary Crested Pigeon and one Australian Magpie Lark. I’m not sure where all the other birds are holed up against the oppressive conditions. Usually there is a steady procession of honeyeaters (at least 5 species), thornbills (2 species), pardalotes (2 species), sparrows, parrots (3 species) and doves.

For a complete list of species that have visited our bird baths, click here.

Australian Magpie sitting in the bird bath on a hot day (43C or 109F)

Australian Magpie sitting in the bird bath on a hot day (43C or 109F)

Weird looking honeyeaters

New Holland Honeyeaters in bird bath

We get a great deal of pleasure in watching the wide range of birds in our garden. Their favourite spot would have to be the bird baths. Ours too. I’ve strategically placed the bird baths where we can sit or eat our meals and watch the passing parade of birds visiting for a drink, especially on hot summer days. The list of species we’ve seen visiting the water is  long and growing one.

Possibly the most frequent visitors are the resident New Holland Honeyeaters. They tend to come in numbers, sometimes a dozen or more at a time and they are always noisy, especially when they are bathing and not just drinking. Their splashing looks like a mini-sprinkler is sitting on the bath, water spraying everywhere.

A few days ago I captured these endearing shots of several having the time of their lives. Methinks they are in serious need of a hair – er – feather dryer.

I’ve included a few more photos of them below.

Good birding.

Further reading:

New Holland Honeyeaters in bird bath

New Holland Honeyeaters in bird bath

New Holland Honeyeaters in bird bath

Magpie Lark washing its food

Magpie Lark

In recent weeks we have had a minor locust plague. They weren’t in numbers sufficient to cause us great inconvenience, not like some other rural areas of South Australia in recent months. As they moved in we were delighted to see some of our resident Australian Magpies gorging themselves on this feast.

A few days ago, however, we saw an Australian Magpie Lark catch a locust and bring it to one of our bird baths. We were having lunch at the time and watched fascinated as this bird proceeded to wash its food in the water. I had heard of some birds species doing this, but this was the first time I’d actually witnessed it. Pity the camera wasn’t handy at the time.

The importance of bird baths

Mallee Ringneck Parrot

Quite a few of the photos shown on this site are of birds at one of the bird baths we have in our garden. Providing water by means of a bird bath is one of the most effective ways of attracting birds to your garden – and keeping them coming back.

Near the end of spring here in Australia is an ideal time to add a bird bath to your garden. The days are warming up and the hot weather is on the way. Our native birds appreciate a reliable source of water. Installing one or more sources of water is also an excellent way of observing our birds close up.

On this morning’s gardening show on ABC radio here in South Australia (Adelaide 891) the host Jon Lamb interviewed a guest speaker on the principles to follow with bird baths. I took some written notes and share them here:


It will take some weeks for the birds in your garden to get used to a new structure in your garden. Now is the time to install it, knowing that by the time the really hot weather comes the birds will be used to it. Our bird baths have been in place now for four or five years, so our resident birds are quite used to it. Within minutes of adding water they are there enjoying themselves. Two weeks ago I added another just outside my office window; so far only 2 species have visited it.


Birds use the same water they bathe in to also drink from, so it is important to regularly clean the bird bath. Change the water every few days adding fresh water. If the bath becomes stained, scrub it clean but use no chemicals doing so. In fact, it is probably wise to scru each bird bath at least fortnightly; weekly if you can.

Depth of water:

Most of the smaller birds that will come to your bird bath will not be strong swimmers. The bird bath must be shallow, or have shallow areas so if a bird gets into trouble it can safely get out. Steep sides are to be avoided. I have placed a small brick or stone in each of our baths, and the birds use this for perching on when using the bath, or drinking.


Choosing the right location for a bird bath is essential. You can have one out in the open and it will be used, but it is far better to locate it near thick shrubbery, so the birds can quickly escape if a predator like a hawk is hovering nearby. They feel much more secure if they have a quick escape route and will therefore be happier about using your bird bath. It is also suggested  that you choose a shady spot as the water can get very hot and uncomfortable on very hot days if it is in full sun.


We get a great deal of enjoyment watching the passing parade of birds coming to drink and bathe. We consider sitting in our sun room watching the birds is a “good” waste of time, right up there with taking time to  “smell the roses’. In addition to the location considerations I’ve already mentioned, locate one of your bird baths where you can see it from a room in your house, or perhaps a veranda or pergola area. This will give you countless hours of enjoyment of our feathered friends.


More ambitious gardeners may incorporate a pond to provide water for the birds. If the water is deep, be sure to provide shallow parts, or add a log partly in the water, or stones or pebbles for the birds to perch on without the danger of drowning.

Eastern Rosella in our garden

Crested Pigeon in a bird bath

Crested Pigeon, Murray Bridge

Crested Pigeon, Murray Bridge

I’m not sure if I’ve shown these photos before. Never mind if I have. I was sorting through a few photos taken a few months ago and came across these of a Crested Pigeon IN our bird bath. It wasn’t content to sit on the edge of the bowl – it had to actually get into it and sit in the water.

When I checked a few minutes later I discovered that there wasn’t much water there anyway, so the bird was probably giving me a hint: “Fill ‘er up, mate!”

So I did.

Crested Pigeon, Murray Bridge

Crested Pigeon, Murray Bridge