Bird Bath Buyers Guide
Why do birds need water?
Birds need water, even in winter, for drinking and for bathing. A bird bath is a perfect solution as a source of drinking and bathing water for birds during both hot and cold weather. Bird baths can be very important in winter as many natural supplies may have frozen, leaving the birds with fewer options. Likewise, during the dry periods, of little rain or drought that can occur during the summer months, a bird bath can be a vital source of water.
Birds get the water they need from their food and by drinking. Seed eaters need to drink plenty of water as they have such a dry diet. Whereas many insectivorous birds get most of the water they need from their food. This can change seasonally; blue tits may drink more in winter because a winter diet of dry nuts does not provide them with as much water as their summer fare of juicy caterpillars.
Water for bathing is equally essential. Bathing and preening are important parts of feather maintenance. Birds use water to keep their feathers in good condition which gives them insulation during cold winter nights. Bathing their feathers helps remove dirt, dust, loose feathers and debris. It is also easier for them to preen their feathers whilst they are damp.
Why use a bird bath?
A bird bath is the simplest way to provide water in the garden. It can be a beautiful addition to your garden as well as attracting a whole range of bird species. Few people provide a regular supply of clean water for birds as many opt to put out only food. This is great, although as has been said above, having accessible sources of water is key to creating a healthy garden environment for birds.
What type of bird bath is best to buy?
The best kind of bird bath is one that is used and enjoyed on a regular basis by a full range of bird species. To achieve this, it needs to be functional, having an attractive bird bath may be a pleasing addition to your garden but the aesthetic features are there only for us.
A good bird bath has a rough surface so birds can grip it with their claws, slippery sides will often make the birds slip and slide. Having shallow sloping sides to approach the water with varying water depths to allow each species to bathe at their preferred depth is ideal. This depth of water should range from 2.5-10cm (1-4 inches).
Bathing can be a vigorous occasion, especially if a flock of birds turn up, your bird bath should be large enough to hold an adequate amount of water to withstand this. It should be a simple, sturdy construction, and if it is a designed to be positioned on the ground then it should be light enough to make it easy to clean, refill and move.
Where to position a bird bath
If it’s positioned in the wrong place even the best bath won’t be of much use – birds will only use it if they feel safe. Poor placement can even hurt the birds, for example, if it is positioned where it is accessible to predators, or too close to windows that could lead to collisions. Fortunately, we’ve done the research and if you consider the factors detailed below, you’ll be able to maximise the bath’s usefulness and minimise its hazards.
- Visibility: Birds will need to have clear visibility as they bathe. Choose a location that is easily visible to birds in other parts of the garden so they will notice its availability. All the better if that location also offers good views for watching birds.
- Shelter: Birds often get excited and pre-occupied about bathing but can also be nervous. If the bath is too exposed, they may be less likely to use it. Nearby cover such as bushes or trees offer perfect places to escape to if they feel threatened. But don’t put it so close that predators could easily hide and attack from.
- Weather: Seasonal changes will influence the best place for a bath. During the cold winter months positioning the bath in a sunny spot will help keep the water warmer on cool days and defrost it when frozen over. The opposite is true for the summer months, placing the bath in shade keeps the water cool on the hottest days and minimises bacteria growth.
- Size and Stability: Heavy baths can be difficult to move whereas lighter baths may need shelter from strong winds. All baths should be positioned in level safe areas where they are not likely to fall or tip and spill easily.
- Cleanliness: Avoid putting the bird bath beneath trees or shrubs that create a lot of leaf and fruit litter. This is also the case with feeders, if positioned too close they will dirty the water with seeds, hulls and droppings. Having a hose nearby will make it easier to keep the bath clean, fresh and full of water.
With all these factors taken into consideration it may be hard to find the perfect position for your bird bath. Finding the best place possible will take compromise and testing, try placing the bath in different places around your garden to find the most successful.
How to keep your bird bath clean
A dirty bird bath is not only unattractive to birds, but can cause health problems for them and even for people. Rinsing and refilling the bath daily to remove the build-up of dirt and droppings is advised and a thorough cleaning of the bath should be done every week or so when you clean your bird feeders and tables. Bird baths can become stagnant and dirty, even dangerous, without regular cleaning due to being small and enclosed.
Dirty bird baths, much like dirty bird tables, can be a serious source of disease. Although there is only a small risk of infections being transmitted to people, we suggest you should always exercise good hygiene when cleaning them. Using separate utensils, wearing gloves, washing your hands when finished and cleaning the bird baths outside is advised.
Here’s a few handy tips for keeping your bird bath clean;
- Position the bird bath where it will not be in the path of falling leaves, seeds and droppings from feeders or other debris.
- Use a pressure hose during refills to rinse away droppings.
- Shady spots will slow the rate of evaporation and minimise algae growth.
- Always dump out the old and stagnant water when refilling the bath.