Many birds use shallow water to drink, cool off, and bathe. Shallow puddles, the edges of ponds, lakes and slow-moving streams, irrigation or drainage ditches and various kinds of man-made bird baths are among the sources of water for birds.
There is a wonderful spot along Ash Creek (Lassen County CA) where birds come for water. A shrubby old willow overhangs the bank. Directly above and dropping into the water are dead branches without foliage, behind which the willow is green and covered with leaves. The water directly under the dead branches is shallow with small pools among the rocks. All I need to do is sit quietly and before long a variety of birds visit this natural “bird bath”. Birds drink from and exuberantly bathe in the pools. Since birds do not fly well with wet feathers, the dead branches directly above the water provide perches where they can dry off and preen. Shy birds or those who sense danger as they preen can quickly escape into the dense foliage behind the bare branches. It is a perfect spot for birds.
This female American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) was recently bathing at the willow. She had a long, vigorous splash in the water before ducking amid the green willow leaves to dry and preen.