A bird bath is a great way to attract birds to your garden. Some garden birds won’t ever use bird feeders preferring instead to forage for natural sources of food but all birds need to drink and bathe, and, particularly in urban areas or during the winter of height of summer, supplies of fresh water can sometimes be scarce.
A bird bath can be an attractive feature to add to your garden and although it is tempting to choose one just by looks alone, you need to consider what birds need when choosing a bird bath. After all, birds will not appreciate a good-looking bird bath in the same way that we do, and the best bird baths are designed with birds in mind.
There are 4 main types of bird bath:
Pedestal bird baths
These are the most common types of bird baths. They consist of a bowl or basin mounted on a pedestal and can be used in most gardens on lawns, decking, or patio areas. Pedestal bird baths need to be sturdy enough not to blow which means they can be too heavy for one person to move around.
Hanging bird baths
Hanging bird baths are great for smaller gardens or roof terraces, and you may even find room on a balcony for one. As they tend to hold less water hanging bird baths are also good for attracting smaller birds.
Ground bird baths
A ground bird bath may not look as attractive, but many birds are more comfortable using them as they mimic their natural water sources such as puddles and ponds. Be aware that birds using a ground bird bath can be vulnerable to predators and you may attract vermin who are attracted by the easy access to water.
Mounted bird baths
Mounted bird baths can be fixed to a wall or a fence or over railings and are perfect if you have a balcony or deck.
Bird baths are available in a variety of materials including metal, plastic, ceramic, stone, concrete, and fibreglass. If you are going to leave your bird bath out all year round then you need to choose a bird bath made of a material that is frost-proof; cast iron or fibreglass would be ideal.
Stone bird baths are susceptible to cracking in freezing weather so choose an engineered stone bird bath that has been reinforced with resin if you want to keep it outside over winter.
Many bird baths, in particular pedestal bird baths can include elaborate designs or carvings. Although these may look attractive, they can be more difficult to keep clean although as they age any moss or algae that collects on the outside can add to their character. When cleaning inside the bowl of the bird bath never use chemicals that are toxic to birds.
Ornamental bird baths can also be less practical if they have a deep basin, Birds feel vulnerable in deep water and will avoid any bird baths where the water depth is over a few centimetres. Deep bird baths can also be potentially dangerous, particularly to smaller birds who can drown in them. Garden birds are unable to swim very well and can become disoriented if they fall into the water and can’t get out.
Ideally you should choose a bird bath made from a textured material to provide a steady footing for birds so they do not slip on the wet surface. If the bird bath is made of plastic or metal and the surface is very smooth rub it with coarse sandpaper to roughen it up.
The water bowl of your bird bath should have a gentle slope from its edge to the centre so that birds can bathe or drink in water levels they are most comfortable with. It should also have a flat edge so they can safely land before entering the water. If the bowl is too deep or doesn’t have a flat edge place some small rocks in the bowl or a shallow dish turned upside down so they have somewhere to land and perch as they drink and bathe, and to dry off and preen after being in the water. You could also place sticks across the top of the bird bath to provide a makeshift perch.
The sound of splashing water is a big enticement for birds so consider buying a bird bath with a built-in fountain or add a portable water pump. Solar powered bird baths are a popular choice as they will save you money, are kind to the environment, and you don’t need to have unsightly or dangerous wires lying around in your garden. You can also add water wigglers, drippers, and misters to move the water in your bird bath.
If you want to keep your bird bath out during the winter then heated bird baths are available or you could add a heating element to a regular bird bath. Although you can buy solar powered heaters they don’t tend to work very well and there is often not enough sun in the winter when you need it the most.
The final thing you need to think about is cost. Bird baths range in price from a few pounds for a small ground bird bath to several hundred pounds for a fancy, ornate pedestal bird bath.
You should buy a bird bath within a budget that you are comfortable with. However, be aware that cheap bird baths may not last as long as something a bit more expensive so over time may not be as cost-effective.