Bird baths are great extra sources of water for birds. They will use them to bathe, drink and in some cases even swim. But getting birds to use your bird bath can sometimes be tricky.
Here are a few tips on how to attract birds to a bird bath.
Fill the bird bath daily
If you already have a bird bath, check the water level daily. If it’s not full, fill it up. Once the birds in your area know that the water is fresh and filled daily, they are more likely to visit your yard on a regular basis.
Consistency is the key here so keep the water filled daily even if you feel like giving up because no birds have arrived yet.
One way to make this easier is to use an automatic bird bath filler which will automatically fill your birdbath so that it never runs dry. This is really handy if you are away for any length of time. It also means that you don’t have to spend time refilling it every day.
Putting your bird bath in an open spot will ensure that birds can see it from long distances. The more visible the bird bath is, the more likely it will be used by birds in your area.
Finding the right spot can be a bit of a challenge because not only do you want to attract birds but you also want to be able to easily see them when they arrive. You will also want to give them a little protection so that they can take cover if needed but more on that later.
If possible, place your bird bath in view of a window or seating area. This will allow you to view the birds as they come to bathe, which is a nice added benefit of having your bath in an easy-to-see location.
Of course, keep in mind that most birds are wary of humans so a visible bird bath might intimidate them. This is especially true when you are first setting up to attract birds. I don’t have this problem as the birds that have been coming to my garden have become used to me pottering around in the back yard and so they mostly ignore me. However, If your birds are shy and this is creating a problem, try moving the bath to an inconspicuous location that’s still easy for birds to find but where you can’t be easily seen.
If you live in a hot environment then avoid placing the bird bath in direct sunlight, as this will cause the water to warm up and become less inviting.
Bird Bath enhancers
Adding other elements to the bird bath can also help increase the number of birds using it. Some common items that may be used to attract birds are:
- Rocks for perching – Place some smooth rocks in the bird bath to make it more appealing to birds. Rocks provide a perch for small birds and add a more natural look to the bird bath. For example, this bubbler, rock waterfall will add depth and color to your bird bath, and will surely attract birds with the sound of the water flowing over the waterfall.
- Water plants – Adding live or imitation water plants to your bird bath not only makes it more attractive but can attract a wider variety of birds as well. Real plants are preferable however fake plants will last longer. Just make sure the fake plants are safe – try using imitation plants specifically made for fish tanks or ponds.
- Adding branches – Place some fallen tree branches in the bird bath to give it a more natural look. They will provide perches for birds as well as shade if needed.
Just keep in mind that you don’t want too many additions as they may take up too much space, and make it difficult for birds to get into or out of the bath. Also, try not to use decorations that are too heavy, have the potential to fall, or are potentially hazardous, such as sharp objects.
Of course, additions to your bird bath will depend on how big the bath is and some of the items mentioned above are probably more conducive to a pond than a small bird bath.
Don’t put out too much water at once
When you fill the bird bath, don’t put too much water in. Birds like to wade into their baths and splash around for a bit before getting down to business. If there’s too much water, they will spend their entire bath time floundering and trying not to drown. Fill it up with a couple inches of water, and they’ll be happy to hop in.
You may even find that you need two bird baths if you have both large and small birds frequenting your garden. I have one bird bath that suits larger birds like magpies, crows and large parrots and a smaller bird bath that is more shallow for smaller birds.
Use a bird bath heater
Many birds like to bathe during the winter, even when the ground is covered in snow. At this time, there are fewer sources of water available, so having a bird bath will attract more birds than usual. Make sure it is kept full all season long, with fresh water added as needed.
Keep in mind that birds wanting to bathe in winter have no way of getting into a bird bath that is covered with ice. This is where a bird bath heater comes into play. These keep the water from freezing solid.
One bird bath heater that gets great reviews on Amazon is the GESAIL heater.
You can also use a heater in climates where it doesn’t get down to freezing but is cold enough that birds may feel more comfortable with some warmer water.
Bird baths with running water
If you want to attract more birds, then you might consider buying a bird bath with running water. This can be a waterfall fountain or just a simple fountain effect.
I guess this lovely waterfall fountain isn’t technically a bird bath but I am sure you will find that birds will find their way into it. I think it’s a very attractive ‘bird bath’.
The sound of running water is soothing for birds, and some people swear that it increases the number of birds that come to bathe.
Creating running water in a bird bath can be as simple as using a solar powdered fountain. These can be found for less than $20 on Amazon and don’t require any cables or pipes to work. Just place the fountain in the water and as long as the sun is shining, the fountain will work.
Bear in mind, that from my own experience these cheap fountains don’t last forever. On average they tend to last about a year or two due to wear and tear from the elements but for the price I can’t really complain. The one I have is similar to the fountain pump shown in the picture below. It has 4 different spray types so you can choose the one that both you and the birds like.
Some powered baths even feature a motion sensor which causes the bath to turn on when a bird lands in it. I haven’t tried this sort of thing myself but I wonder whether the bird might get a fright if the water starts just as they land.
Another thing to consider is that although the sound of running water may attract more birds it will also make your bird bath a bit noisier. This may be an issue if the bird bath runs at night and is close to sleeping quarters.
Install a pond
If you don’t mind spending a bit more money and have the space for it then consider installing a pond. In addition to all the benefits that running water can offer, ponds will also attract insects and amphibians which can be a real treat for birds.
Just make sure you choose a safe location as bird baths/ponds built near fences or other obstacles where predators may lurk might put birds at risk of being attacked.
Putting it near bushes can also be dangerous as cats and other predatory animals such as snakes may seek refuge there.
Instead, try positioning it in an open area where it cannot be reached from any hiding places.
If you are considering adding a pond there are pre-moulded ponds that are reasonably priced and easy to install. They often include a pump that provides a waterfall effect and recycles the water through.
These types of ponds still need water added on a regular basis as they can dry out and if there is no water in the pond, it can damage the pump.
Other things to consider when installing a pond:
- Make sure it’s shallow enough for the birds to stand in
- Use a bird bath heater if you live in a cold climate
- Place a solar powered fountain in the water if you want running water
Keep the bird bath clean
A very important step to making sure that your bird bath is used is to keep it clean and safe for the birds. This means changing the water regularly, scrubbing out any algae build-up and removing any bird droppings from around the bath. If there are any plants near the bath that could drop leaves, berries or other fruits and nuts into the water, remove them (many birds may eat these tasty morsels, but it can also cause their death). Also trim overhanging leaves if possible to prevent any from falling in. All this will ensure your bird bath is as welcoming to birds as possible.
Birds are naturally wary of dirty water. A big part of what attracts them to a bird bath is the promise of good, clean water to drink and bathe in. If your bird bath starts looking grimy or smelly, do invest in some cleaner (such as pet-specific dish soap) and scrub it clean. Keeping your bird bath clean doesn’t take a lot of time to do and it’s certainly worth the effort. I use a sponge with a scourer on one side and it does a great job. I only need to give the bath a scrub if there has been particularly heavy use. Most days I just use the jet function on the hose to clear out the days debris.
If the bird bath is very dirty, disinfect it before refilling with clean water. Birds can contract diseases if they visit a dirty bird bath. To disinfect, add a few tablespoons of bleach to the water and let it sit for twenty minutes before draining. Ensure you keep the bird bath covered at this point to prevent the birds from drinking from it.
Don’t use a soap-like substance in your bath. Birds will stay away from any bath that smells like a shampoo or cleaning product. Soap suds can also irritate their skin, and while they may not be toxic, there’s no need to put anything into your bird bath water that isn’t naturally found in their habitat.
Birds are most likely to visit a bird bath if it is next to some sort of cover. This could be large plants or thick shrubbery. It doesn’t have to be directly next to something (and in fact, it is better if it isn’t)- just in close proximity so that the birds can quickly take cover if needed.
Avoid placing the bird bath directly under trees where the likelihood of leaves and other debris will fall into the bath.
Placing it too close to a fence or tree can leave it open to predators like cats for instance which just love to pounce on unsuspecting birds.
Place some food around the bird bath
Birds are most likely to visit a bird bath if there is some food around. Find out what birds live in your area and get some seed that suits. Depending on the bird, you might also like to try suet, vegetables, fruit, dried bugs, and fish.
You can buy a stand like mine (see image below) which you can get from Amazon here. It allows you to place a mix of different foods close to the bird bath or you can simply scatter some food on the ground around the bird bath.
If you have a bird feeder in your backyard already, make sure it’s close to the bird bath so that the birds can easily switch between the two amenities. This way, you can attract more birds to your yard because they will be able to access food and water from both locations.
Protection from predators
Many birds are not comfortable using a bird bath if they think their babies might be in danger of a predator attack. For example, if baby birds are learning how to fly and they’re still vulnerable, their parents might not go near the bird bath if it’s close to a tree or bush.
Place some large rocks around the area where you’ve placed your bird bath so that birds can use them as perches and feel safe while having a drink at the bird bath.
Be aware that some of your bird bath visitors may be predators themselves. We have a pair of magpies that are daily visitors to the garden and during (and just after) nesting season they will attack anything that even comes close to their babies. This includes even the gentlest of birds that have no interest in going anywhere near them let alone hurt them.
So, be aware of any nests or bird life in your immediate area and make sure you understand the nature of your visitors.
With a little attention and care on setting up your bird bath, you should have oodles of birds flocking to it. So now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the antics of your feathered friends.!