I have found an approach to attracting many species of birds with water that overcomes much of the undesirable maintenance while offering exceptional bird viewing at close range. The method presents water in a setting that creates a ‘micro’ natural environment on a deck or patio. Water is magic relative to birding watching. Every bird needs to drink, thus, I can attract many species of birds including warblers that are not attracted to feeders. Overall advantages: relatively easy to install and maintain, and provides a pleasing accent to a deck or patio landscaping.
I refer to the technique as “water feature in a box”. These are small water features about two feet long and high, molded with plastic resins into shapes of stones or logs, that recycle water with a small electrical pump from a built-in reservoir. The water feature is positioned on a small table or stand for level viewing from a comfortable seating area at a window. The creative approach is to surround the water feature within a natural setting attractive to birds by using plants, small trees in containers, weathered logs, branches and perching sticks. In the Spring, Summer and Fall, I include pots of seasonal annual or perennial flowers and grasses, small evergreen shrubs and a Japanese maple tree about two to three foot high in a container. In winter I keep the leafless maple tree to give small birds added security and add cold hardy evergreen shrubs and grasses. To enhance the natural accent, I include drift wood, weathered sticks with moss or lichen on them and fasten a few sticks for perches to the side and front of the feature. These added elements to the water feature present a safe, natural environment that attracts many species of birds, all day long and through the year. In winter I install a small electric heater available at most birding stores or ordered on-line.
A selection of small molded resin water features may be found on-line at sites like Amazon.com and home improvement stores using key words patio, lawn and garden.