A bird bath is the ideal way to ensure the birds that visit your garden have a source of water in which to bathe or drink from particularly when natural sources are scarce.
However, if your bird bath isn’t suitable it could actually do more harm than good. Here are some of the most common mistakes made with bird baths and tips on how to fix them.
Once your birds have become used to a water supply in your garden you should ensure that you continue to offer it to them. If your bird bath is often empty then birds will soon disappear to find another source of water.
The water in shallow bird baths can quickly evaporate on hot days and water may even disappear from deeper bird baths, particularly if larger birds splash around in them a lot.
Choose a slightly deeper bird bath and position it in a shady area. Unfortunately you can’t do much about larger birds using your bird bath particularly wood pigeons who will often sit in the bath for long periods of time. Make sure that your bird bath is regularly topped up with a supply of fresh clean water – you could also try positioning it under a downpipe for automatic filling.
In winter natural water supplies could be scarce so it is really important that you don’t allow the water in your bird bath to freeze over. Not only could frozen water damage a bird bath particularly stone ones which can crack, but birds will use precious energy trying to peck through the ice.
Place a tennis ball in your bird bath to prevent ice from forming or you could buy a solar heated bird bath or add a heating element to an existing bird bath. You can buy special bird bath de-icers but don’t use antifreeze or salt which could kill birds.
Although birds aren’t too fussy about the type of water they drink and bathe in – they will regularly use dirty puddles after all – a dirty bird bath is not only unattractive but is also potentially harmful to birds as it can harbor dangerous bacteria.
You will probably find your bird bath gets filled up with seed husks, feathers, insects, algae, droppings and other debris so make sure you clean it regularly with a weak solution of bleach particularly during the summer months.
A bird bath with a fountain will help prevent the water from stagnating so choose a solar powered pump which is also kind to the environment.
Try not to use any chemicals such as pesticides or fertilizers that are toxic to birds near your bird bath but if you are spraying your garden then cover your bird bath to prevent any droplets getting into the water.
Although a deep bird bath will stay fuller for longer it is not suitable for small birds and may even pose a risk of drowning. As the level of the water goes down smaller birds will also be unable to reach the surface from the edge of the bird bath preventing them from drinking safely from it.
Place a few small rocks or stones in the bottom of the bird bath to allow them somewhere to perch. Twigs or sticks placed across the top of the basin will also suffice.
Hanging bird baths are ideal for smaller gardens or patios as they take up less room. However, if they are too flimsy or lightweight they will swing around a lot and the water will tip out.
Birds are unlikely to use very unstable hanging bird baths so if you do choose to have one ensure it is solid and heavy enough to support the weight of the birds who use it and place it in a sheltered spot away from direct winds.
Larger birds and some ground feeding birds such as robins, thrushes and blackbirds may prefer to use bird baths that are close to the ground; an upturned dustbin lid or old shallow dish is ideal. However, this makes them very vulnerable to predators such as cats or birds of prey.
Place a ground bird bath near shrubs or hedges so the birds have somewhere to escape to if they feel threatened. You could also use a sanctuary designed for ground feeders to cover your bird bath which will also have the advantage of not allowing larger birds access.
Metal bird baths are very durable but during the summer they can become very hot and birds could burn their feet on them as they come into land on the edge. Warm water is not appealing to birds and is more likely to become a breeding ground for bacteria and insects and will go stagnant quickly.
If you do choose to have a metal bird bath place it somewhere out of direct sunlight and make sure you clean it regularly to remove any algae that has formed.