written by Dr. Scott Shalloway and Tom Hollyday
“Water. It’s out most precious natural resource. Without it, life as we know it would cease to exist. It’s the source and support of all life on earth. And for backyard birders, water’s the secret to attracting a colorful collections of visitors all year long.
The virtues of water are many, but most importantly water satisfies thirst. Animal tissue is approximately 70 percent water. Water lost in urine or evaporation can be replaced by eating water-rich foods such as insects and berries, or by simply taking a drink.
Water also provides a convenient place to bathe. During warm weather birds routinely immerse themselves in shallow puddles of water. They fluff their feathers and flap their wings to insure that every feather gets soaked. When they leave the water, they fluff and shake their feathers, and preen. Clean feathers insulate the body from summer heat and winter cold.
Finally, after a cold bath on a hot day a bird might just feel better and look better to other birds. A good soaking may relive the itch and discomfort caused by mites and feather lice. And a smartly groomed male, whose appearance helps attract females, holds a mate’s attention, and deters competitors, may be taken more seriously than its less fastidious counterparts.
These virtues have been known for years and in large measure explain the historic popularity of backyard bird baths. Bird lovers go to great lengths to satisfy their backyard visitors. Unfortunately bird baths are just that – baths. After just a few soakings, a traditional bird bath turns into a warm soupy broth of dirty water, shed feathers and droppings – hardly an irresistible place to take a drink.
In 1989 Tom Hollyday, a lifelong animal lover, decided backyard birds deserved better. “I wanted to build a device that would keep water cool in the hot weather, use solar power to keep water liquid in cold weather, and was easy to keep clean,” he recalls. “In the process I eliminated the drudgery of scrubbing traditional bird baths and the expense and bother of electric heating elements.”
Hollyday presented his solution to the bird dilemma and called it the “Solar Sipper.” It consists of three parts. The top cover keeps dirt and debris from soiling the water, while a single small hole offer thirsty birds an ideal drinking platform. The main bowl rests inside a larger outer bowl. The air space between the bowls insulates the water from temperature extremes. In winter, the passive solar heats keeps the water from freezing down to 20 degrees F when the fresh water is placed out in the sun. During the summer, the air space prevents the water from overheating. In other words, the Solar Sipper provides clean fresh drinking water all year long – simply, reliably and inexpensively. If you already have a bird bath, the Solar Sipper is a perfect complement to insure that clean drinking water is always available.
Though the Solar Sipper can be post-mounted, it works even better when placed directly on the ground. Dr. Scott Shalloway, one of the nation’s leading authorities on attracting backyard birds, calls the Solar Sipper a “remarkably simple and effective watering device. So often the best ideas are the simple ones. I’ve seen everything from cardinals to blue jays to chickadees and goldfinches drinking for my Solar Sipper, which I keep on the ground about five feet from a tray feeder.”