Forget the wheel. Forget plumbing. Forget the plough. Forget the printing press. Forget electricity. Forget the automobile. Forget the airplane. Forget the atomic bomb. Forget the television. Forget the cell phone. Forget the beer helmet. Forget Cup-O-Noodles….
The greatest human invention ever, the thing that makes our human lives worth living and will serve as our greatest legacy for the future is…the birdbath.
Okay, I admit, that may be a bit over the top…but still.
Why am I chirping with praise for the humble, simple birdbath? Because I find it hard to point out anything that offers us more certain and frequent chances for complete joy, hilarity, curiosity, surprise, and wonder.
How so? Because, obviously enough, birdbaths are the frequent haunts of those marvelous spritely beings called birds.
Once upon a time some long time ago, some wise human happened to notice that birds do lots of funny things in the various natural pools of water that form up just about anywhere–be it in a pothole, in the hollow of a log, in a backed-up drainage ditch, or in even the slightest depression. And this wise human then thought, “Hey, maybe if I make something to keep some water in and put it in some conspicuous place, the birds will come and do those things in it, too!” So this wise human went home, went scavenger hunting in the garage, and behold! The first birdbath was born.
Whoever that wise human was, I thank him or her from the bottom of my heart. After all, without somebody having bothered to mimic nature by creating constant puddles for birds to play in, where would human life be nowadays? Would we have birdbaths to place everywhere and anywhere we can? Would we have all makes and models and prices of birdbaths to choose from? Would we have accessories like birdbath warmers or motorized fountain-makers to make this simple thing more complex?
But I digress. I know you will join with me in rejoicing over birdbaths if you simply recall some of the many things you can observe there.
Birds put on a show for us in many different ways:
- When they bathe, they seem like little fluttering gizmos, flicking their wings and flapping their feathers, dipping and diving and splashing about. And once they are wet…they look so comical with their spiky feathers sticking every which way, like a little kid after a bath.
- When they drink, you cannot help but laugh as they tip forward, scoop up some water in their beaks, stand up tall, tip back their heads, and wiggle their gullets so the water goes down. Sometimes, I swear they even seem to smack their lips–er, beaks–as if in satisfaction. I am just waiting to hear one let out a healthy belch one day. I am also waiting for someone to invent a bird straw.
- When they eat, they often employ birdbaths to help them. All those dry seeds surely require something to keep birds’ mouths and tummies adequately moist. But a birdbath is a handy tool in other gustatory ways, too. I once saw a crow, which as a whole are true geniuses of the animal kingdom, bring a big chunk of bread to the birdbath, dip it in and swish it around to get it softened, and then eat it with perfect ease.
- When they need to chit-chat, they often congregate at the birdbath, much as humans like to share some news at the water cooler or knock down a few rounds with friends at the local pub.
Bird feeders are nice, but in all honesty they tend to be a bit boring. I mean, what happens? A bird flies up, grabs a bit of seed takeout, and then flies away like a teenager from a fast-food restaurant. Or a more patient diner will plop down and dig in as if at a buffet. That is about it…flying, perching, and eating. Birdbaths, however, are constant places of excitement, of hustle and bustle and humorous activity.
Even better, birdbaths are great places for other wildlife experiences, too. Just about any day you can expect to see at least a squirrel, maybe a cat. Sometimes (depending on where you live) you may get wilder critters, too–even deer, raccoons, or bears.
In the sweltering heat of summer, birdbaths are relaxing, refreshing oases for our friends great and small, feathered or otherwise clad. In the freezing days of winter, a birdbath filled with hot water is like a gift for the holidays to warm everyone’s heart.
Yes, birds can be a bit liberal in their patronage of birdbaths. I mean, would you (without at least some form of treatment) drink the water you bathe in? Or that you poop in?
So birdbaths need us to keep them clean and to keep their waters flowing freshly so that our feathered friends keep flocking to them faithfully. No human invention is perfect, of course–even this, the greatest invention to our credit.
Nevertheless, however flawed they may be in some ways, birdbaths will forever remind us that human ingenuity can do wonders–especially when it follows, and also serves, any one of nature’s wonders.