Birds will always be grateful for any help we can offer them in our own gardens. But while the majority of people are able to offer a variety of feeders and seed so as to provide a birdy buffet, not everyone thinks to offer a clean, reliable source of water.
Birds need water to survive too, both for drinking and for bathing in – so we’ve put together a helpful guide with all the info you need to know about birdbaths, and why you should offer one in your garden.
Why should you install a birdbath?
Offering bird food is a fantastic method to encourage birds to pay your garden a visit, but birdbaths are an even more brilliant way to do the same thing. That’s because not all birds in the wild will brave your feeders, but all birds need a source of dependable clean water. By installing a birdbath in your garden, you can encourage a variety of birds to drop by that you might not have seen otherwise.
Birds will prefer birdbaths that are as close to the ground as possible, as these will mimic the more natural water sources that they’re used to. Avoid opting for concrete birdbaths; while they may be aesthetically pleasing, they tend to be too deep for birds, and can crack during periods of freezing. Look for a birdbath that is easy to clean and won’t get damaged; take a look at our range of birdbaths to find the perfect addition for your garden.
Where should you place your birdbath?
Once you’ve chosen your birdbath, it’s important to think about where to place it in your garden. You’ll want to choose an area where you can easily see it, and somewhere birds will be able to spot the new supply of water. If you’ve got any cats lurking around your neighbourhood, choose a spot that allows any foliage a wide berth. This way cats will need to slink into view to hunt, giving birds advanced warning to make a quick escape.
It’s equally important to place your birdbath in a shady area if possible; this will maintain a cooler temperature during hotter weather, and prevent algae from growing voraciously in the sunlight. Shade will keep the water fresh for as long as possible, and also offer birds a place to cool off when temperatures start to soar.
Ideally have a tree nearby with branches available for birds to preen on, but avoid placing your birdbath directly under them, shrubs that shed leaves regularly, or directly under feeders. This will help to prevent a build-up of organic matter and dropped feed in the birdbath, ensuring that the water is as clean as possible for as long as possible.
Place your birdbath somewhere that’s easily accessible to you so that you can clean it regularly. If it’s near a source of water, such as within easy reach of your hosepipe, this will be ideal. Avoid placing it too close to any windows, as this could cause more window collisions. Try to place it on stable ground to get the birdbath as level as possible – this will ensure an equal distribution of water throughout the birdbath, as birds don’t like deep water.
How to look after your birdbath
The most important thing to remember when it comes to your birdbath is to clean it regularly, and change the water frequently. A clean birdbath will make for happy beaks, and ensure the birds come back to your garden. Filthy birdbaths will encourage the spread of disease, which will have a detrimental effect on bird health.
Keep your birdbaths full at all times so as to encourage birds to pay a visit; don’t forget to give it a top-up during warmer weather. It’s important to change the water every day or two, so as to prevent an accumulation of feathers and bird droppings. Cleaning water regularly will also prevent any algae building up – remove any algae you spot, as it will only get worse if left alone. Scrub your birdbath clean with a bristled brush, and a gentle cleaning solution – allow to dry thoroughly before adding fresh water.
Never use antifreeze during the winter in an attempt to prevent the water freezing over; this will be poisonous to birds. You should similarly avoid using glycerin, as this sticks to birds’ feathers and matts them together, which in turn will make birds susceptible to hypothermia. If you’re concerned about the birdbath freezing over during colder weather, temporarily offer water in the mornings from a plastic bowl instead, bringing it back inside when ice starts to form.
How to improve your birdbath
The ideal water depth to maintain is roughly 2 inches in the deepest part of the birdbath, and between half an inch to an inch along the other edges. This will be deep enough for birds to wade into, but not too deep for them to be put off by it. When in doubt, shallow water is the better option, as birds won’t bathe in deep water.
If you want to make your water shallower, think about adding some gravel to the deeper parts for birds to stand on. This is also a good idea to install in your birdbath if it’s on the slippery side, as it will give birds more sure footing when they bathe. This is crucial for birds to feel safe enough to pay your birdbath a visit, as if a predator makes an appearance, birds will feel confident they can make a quick getaway.
Add some stones to your birdbath to give birds a place to stand on to drink water without getting wet – this will be especially helpful during the colder months. Stones will also be a welcome addition for insects like bees, and allow these helpful fellows to sip at the water without being at risk of falling in.
Birds find moving water irresistible; dripping or rippling water will catch the sunlight, and capture the attention of any birds flitting nearby. You can attach a mister or dripper to the head of your hose with the water pressure on low to add motion to your birdbath, or add a pump to the bath to circulate that water. If your hose isn’t within easy reach of your birdbath, you can create your own dripping system with an old bucket; drill a small hole and fill it with water to drip above the birdbath.
Have you got a birdbath in your garden? What birds have you seen paying it a visit? Let us know over on our Facebook page!
Lead image: scooperdigital via Getty Images.