How to provide an ideal bird bath for your backyard birds

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bird in bird bath

So you have a bird feeder or two and you’ve tested out a few different bird seed mixes. Maybe you even have a few birdhouses hanging up around your yard. Now, you’re contemplating the next step in making your yard even more inviting to backyard birds — adding a bird bath.

Providing drinking and bathing water for birds is an easy way to attract more birds to your yard. You won’t have to invest a lot of time or money in a bird bath. Simple, inexpensive designs can have just as much success as elaborate ones, and bird baths don’t require a lot of maintenance. The key to success is providing an ideal setup for the birds and conditions in your backyard.

Types of bird baths

Just as different types of birds prefer different types of feeders, different types of birds prefer different types of bird baths. Some species of birds like to bathe in pedestal or hanging bird baths. Other species of birds seek out baths at or near ground level.

Generally speaking, a bird’s bathing preferences will reflect its feeding preferences. The birds that prefer a suspended bird bath setup are the same ones that like to feed at hanging feeders. The birds that feed at ground level are the same ones that will bathe at ground level.

Providing both types of bird baths allows you to provide water for the widest variety of bird species and other wildlife. While suspended bird baths attract your favorite songbirds, ground-level baths can attract less common backyard bird species and many other animal species, such as chipmunks and squirrels.

Choosing a bird bath

The material the bird bath is made out of influences price and appeal.

Terra cotta bird baths. Inexpensive and desirable. Hanging terra-cotta bird baths are one of the cheaper options and are preferred by birds for their rough surface.

Concrete bird baths. Moderately priced and desirable. Like terra-cotta bird baths, concrete bird baths are appealing to birds because of their rough texture.

Iron or aluminum bird baths. Expensive and less desirable. While these fancy baths might be more pleasing to the human eye, birds are not as impressed with their smoother surfaces.

Homemade bird baths. Cost and appeal are determined in the selection of materials. You may decide to make your own bird bath from a garbage can lid or large terra-cotta plant saucer to put on the ground or hang from a tree, using rope or chains. However, if you’re utilizing glazed pottery or smooth plastics in your design, you may want to consider providing a nonstick surface. Birds don’t like slippery surfaces. You can use small rocks and bathtub stickers to create a nonstick surface.

Water

Water level. Birds will only use a bird bath if it’s shallow. Keep the water level to 2-3 inches deep.

Dripping water features. A dripper adds water to a bird bath slowly from above. You can purchase one from a garden center or make your own out of a plastic bottle or jug. Just fill your container with water and make a tiny hole in the bottom. Once you’ve established a slow drip, hang the container above your bird bath. Refill daily.

Misting water features. A mister is another water feature many birds enjoy, especially hummingbirds. You can purchase misters at garden centers.

Location

Cover. Place your bird bath near cover, so its visitors have a safe place to drink and bathe. Shrubs and low tree branches provide cover from aerial predators.

Shade. Placing your bird bath near a shady location ensures the water temperature won’t increase too much and keeps algae levels low.

Away from cat hiding places. If cats are prevalent in your yard, place your bird bath where birds can see predators approaching — 10-15 feet from the nearest predator hiding spot.

Away from feeders. Never place your bird bath under your feeder. Food and droppings will accumulate quickly.

Cleaning

Water. Change the water in your bird bath daily to prevent dirt and debris from accumulating. A daily water change also prevents mosquito larvae from hatching in your bird bath.

Bird bath. Clean your bird bath with a scrub brush and mild soap to remove algae once a week.

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