Bird Baths

The Gift of Water

Baby Robin

Sometimes fresh, clean water is hard for a bird to find. You can make a bird's day simply by offering a drink and a bath

Parent birds will often bring their babies to the bath after they fledge and show them where it is. Like the baby robin getting its first bath.

Water will actually attract more species of birds than feeders will. Birds such as wrens, catbirds, and waxwings, who eat insects or fruit, don't visit most feeders.

But a birdbath attracts all kinds of birds. Bluebirds, robins, catbirds, warblers and thrushes. We've even watched screech owls drinking from a birdbath right in town at dawn.

Put your birdbath in your garden, and the birds will find it quickly. We took the photo at left, of bluebirds and cedar waxwings, 15 minutes after we first filled our homemade birdbath. We hollowed out a shallow basin in a section of a pine log. It was so heavy that we had to roll it into place. And it was rough, but it was a major hit with the birds.

It was a hit with us, too. Watching birds at the birdbath brings great happiness to a home. It's one of the easiest ways to bring bir ds up close, where the whole family can get a really g ood look and enjoy their beauty.

What kind of bath is best?

No deeper than three inches at the center. It should be even shallower at the edge, so that a bird can ease its way in. Many birdbaths are way too deep. If you have one that's too deep, you can put rocks in it to raise the bottom. However, it will require you to work a little harder to keep the water clean.

Rough bottomed
Birds don't want to lose their footing. They don't like a glazed, slippery bottom. Cement is good, but it's heavy and hard to handle. Some of the new fiber-and-resin baths are amazingly lightweight, and they have a rougher texture, that makes birds feel secure. 

Drippy or sprinkly
The plink or splash of moving water is pure invitation to birds. It dramatically increases the number of species that visit a birdbath. For example, hummingbirds would never wade into the bath the way a robin does, because hummingbirds bathe only in flight. But I have watched hummers zipping back and forth through the drips, timing their flights so that they catch a water drop on their backs on each pass.

You can turn a still-water birdbath a live-water bath by putting a Water Wiggler in it. There is a mode Water Wiggler in it. There is a model runs on batteries. Another kind runs on solar power. However, it works only in direct sunlight. So it's no good under a tree, and not much use in winter unless you live in a seriously sunny climate. You put the Water Wiggler in your own birdbath.

Some people make a 1/2-inch hole in the bottom of a bucket and plug it with a bit of cloth, and suspend the bucket over the birdbath. The dripping water makes plinking sounds that birds can't resist. You can also install a small spray fountain designed for birdbaths. And we've seen a solar spray pump kit that you can add to an existing bath.

Where to place the bath?

Not where cats can hide
My cat Katrina Cats like to lie in wait beneath shrubbery or behind a concealing object and then pounce on the birds when they're wet and can't fly well. So put your birdbath at least five to ten feet from such hiding places. Give the birds a chance to see the cat coming.

With an escape route
The ideal location is under some branches that hang down within two or three feet of the bath. A wet bird can flutter a few feet up to the safety of the leaves.

On a pedestal
Scallops Birdbath with Pedestal It's easy to see from the house, easy to clean, and somewhat safer from predators. If you locate your bath on the ground, it's important for the birds to have overhanging branches.

Within reach of a hose
Make your birdbath easy to clean and refill. But locate your birdbath away from your feeding station, because seeds and droppings would soil the water quickly. Change the water every few days, or even every day in hot weather. Dump it out or squirt it out with the hose. I keep a scrub brush outside with my gardening tools, so that I can brush out any algae that begins to form.

In view from a window
Don't forget to put yourself in the picture. Place the birdbath where you can see it from indoors, from your desk, dining room, or kitchen sink.

Or locate it in your garden. Nothing is more decorative in a garden than a father bluebird bringing his newly-fledged young and introducing them to the birdath.  

A bird in the bath is the soul of enjoyment. The sight of it, even a chance glimpse through the window, will provide you too with a splash of happiness.