Just as the acquisition of food is an essential priority in the bush, so is the procurement of water. Simply put, many an explorer and backwoodsman has died because they did not know how or where to look for water sources. Animals survive, and thrive, in the woods. They are excellent indicators of water, as they must hydrate on a regular basis in order to stay alive. By knowing a little bit about the nature of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals, you can locate water environments where humans would not think to search.
Birds such as finches are grain eaters and water hoarders. If you are in a particularly dry area and you happen upon a group of finches, you are near water. It is likely a hidden spring, but it is there. Wild pigeons are also an incredibly reliable indicator of water. These birds eat grain, as well as seed, and will approach a waterhole near dusk in order to gorge themselves on water before roosting for the night. Wild pigeons as water indicators are particularly telling in their manner of flight. When they are flying low and fast, they are on route to water. When they fly slowly and from tree to tree, they are returning from drinking, as they are still heavy from water intake and cautious of their vulnerability to birds of prey.
Fact: there are more insects on the planet than any other type of animal. They outnumber us, and they are very, very good at what they do. The knowledgeable bushman will look for insect indicators of water when he is in a pinch. Ants are a great indicator for water, as most species rely on it quite heavily. For example, small black ants in a steady column formation climbing a tree trunk and headed into a hole in the “crotch” of a tree is a strong indicator of a hidden water reservoir. Dip a long twig or straw into the hole the ants are headed into, and check for wetness. Mason flies are another excellent insect indicator when it comes to H20. These large, hornet-like bugs never stray further than a few hundred yards from a water source. If you happen upon them, take your time to observe. Watch them hover and then suddenly drop to the earth, that is where the water source is.