A Beginner’s Guide to Birdbaths

Birdbaths

Like all animals, birds need water to survive. Though they get some hydration from food, most birds drink water every day, so a birdbath will make a difference in your yard if you want to attract more birds.  Not only will it increase the amount and variety of birds you will attract to your yard than the birds that bird feeders alone, it will provide a fun time for your family.  You will get to watch them drink, dunk, splash and bathe. After they splash around for a while, they will find a sunny spot and fluff out their feathers to dry, giving you a nice long view of your feathered friends.

What kind of birdbath should you add to your yard?

  • When choosing a birdbath, look for one that is easy to clean. Though concrete birdbaths are what most people think of, they aren’t the best setup for most birds.  Most concrete birdbaths are difficult to clean and are usually too deep.
  • Look for one that has a gentle slope or ledge so the birds can safely drink.
  • The deepest a birdbath should be is 2 1/2″. If you find a birdbath you like but it is deeper than 2 1/2″, place clean sand or gravel on the bottom to provide more secure footing.
  • One of the best ways to make your birdbath more attractive is to provide dripping or misting water. Most birds find the sight and sound of moving water irresistible.
  • Lastly, find a birdbath you are going to like to look at every day, which accents your yard to your liking.  Find one that adds a splash of color or a glint of glass or copper.  Go for yard envy!

Birdbath Placement

  • Place your birdbath in the shade if possible to keep the water cooler and fresher. Nearby trees also provide branches on which they can preen after bathing.
  • While birds are bathing, they are sometimes less wary, and if their feathers get soaked they can’t take off or fly as quickly as normal, making them more susceptible to attack from predators. Due to this, place your birdbath a short flight from cover, with a fairly open area between your birdbath and the nearest thick shrubbery, so your birds have a better chance to detect a threat and get to safety.

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Winter: Ice Free Birdbaths

  • Freestanding water is a must for birds, but it can be very difficult to find when the temperatures drop below the freezing mark.  If you have a birdbath, you may add a birdbath heater to the water to keep it free from ice.  These heaters are safe for the birds. In lieu of a birdbath heater, a heated birdbath is ideal, such as the Kozybird Spa Heated Birdbath.  It will keep the water free from ice, making it available for drinking and bathing (yes, birds will bath in the winter).  The new-generation birdbath heaters and heated birdbaths have thermostats that regulate the heaters, turning them off when temperatures exceed the freezing mark, saving energy and reducing cost.
  • Never add antifreeze to the birdbath—it is poisonous to all animals, including birds. Some people use glycerin as a makeshift antifreeze in birdbaths, but we do not recommend it. Glycerin is a low-level toxin—if birds drink too much, it raises their blood sugar so much that they may die. (Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Maintaining your birdbath

  •  When the temperature is above freezing, it’s a good idea to keep your birdbath full at all times to attract the widest numbers and variety of birds. To provide a safe drinking and bathing environment, it’s critical to change the water every day or two.  Algae grows much more quickly when the water isn’t cleaned frequently. Also, the species of mosquitoes most likely to transmit West Nile virus often lay their eggs in birdbaths. By frequently changing the water, you don’t give the eggs time to hatch or for the larvae to emerge.  You can also purchase a device that keeps the surface of the water in constant motion, such as the Water Wiggler, preventing mosquitos from laying eggs in the first place.  Those, along with solar birdbaths with built-in fountains, will reduce the amount of mosquitos in your yard while simultaneously bringing more birds who are attracted to the natural sounds of running water to drink and bathe in the bath.

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  • Also available are liquid birdbath protectors, such as Care Free Products,which contain enzymes that prevent organic contamination yet are safe for wildlife.
  • If algae does start to grow, you should thoroughly clean the bath with a stiff scrub brush and running water. DO NOT USE BLEACH, as the chemicals can seep into the surface of the birdbath and cause your birds harm in the future.

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