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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Hawk Makes a Splash (for the Week of Aug. 9, 2009)

August 9, 2009

Q. Dear Twig: I saw a big hawk in my grandmother's bird bath.


A. Cool.

Q. What was it doing there?

A. Probably getting a drink of water, taking a bath or both.

Q. Why?

A. Likely it was thirsty, dirty, hot or all three. A hawk is a bird. And birds need water. They drink it to stay hydrated ("HI-drayt-ed"; supplied with enough water) and healthy. They bathe in it to keep their feathers clean. Sometimes they sit in it just to cool off.

Q. Why not go jump in the lake?

A. Me? The hawk. Well, there might not have been one around — nor a pond, creek nor puddle — especially in the summer, especially in a city, especially if the big hawk's feathers had gotten dirty and gritty. Plus hawks and other land birds prefer shallow water, like in a bird bath, to deep water, like in a lake. They can't swim like a duck can. They tend to need to tippy-toe into it.


P.S. We tend to see birds such as robins and cardinals in bird baths more often than hawks.



"Nothing has a more potent attraction for birds during hot weather than drinking and bathing places," says a great old Farmer's Bulletin by the U.S. Department of Agriculture called "How to Attract Birds" (1918).

"Providing a water source for birds," a more recent Cornell Lab of Ornithology fact sheet says, "should provide you with a fantastic opportunity to observe bird behavior" (


About This:

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick" is a weekly feature for children (ages 9+; 4th grade reading level) about science, nature, farming and the environment. Online at

Brought to you by your scientific friends at The Ohio State University — specifically, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) ( and with Ohio State University Extension ( OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Written by Kurt Knebusch of OARDC and OSU Extension. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt at CommTech, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691;; (330) 263-3776.

Kurt Knebusch