MASON CITY — Birds can suffer during drought conditions, but it’s easy to lend them a helping hand.
“It’s tough on the birds when things dry up like this,” said Todd Von Ehwegen, natural resource manager for environmental education for the Cerro Gordo County Conservation Board.
Ellen Montgomery, owner of The Basic Birder in Mason City, said water is extremely important for birds — not only for drinking but for giving them somewhere to bathe.
If their feathers get dirty, “they are in big trouble,” she said. “A dirty bird dies.”
Shallow water sources that allow for bathing can be anything from a birdbath to a couple of ponds with a stream in between, according to Von Ehwegen.
“It depends on how elaborate you want to get,” he said.
If you have a birdbath in your yard, you need to fill it every day to keep it from drying up, he said.
People need to keep their birdbaths clean to prevent corrosion, according to Montgomery.
Moving water “really is almost magical” for attracting birds to your yard, she said.
You can buy water wigglers to put in a birdbath and make the water move, according to Montgomery.
Other possible additions include waterfalls and misters, she said.
In hot, dry weather, birds have trouble not only finding water to drink but also getting enough food because earthworms go deep underground to find moisture, according to Von Ehwegen.
“They are going to need other food sources,” he said.
Some people only put bird feeders out during the winter, but with the drought it’s a good idea to make them available again, he said.
This includes hummingbird feeders, he said, noting the flowers that provide nectar for them are wilting.
Planting native plants and flowers is a long-term way to provide food for the birds, Von Ehwegen said.