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Advice for Beginners

If you've ever watched a bunch of starlings splashing in a roadside puddle, you know that birdbaths don't need to be fancy. Birds will bathe in or drink water from any kind of shallow contained filled with fresh water. A birdbath is a year-round attraction for birds, see the seasonal tips below.


  • Shallow water: Birds prefer bathing in 1 to 2 inches of water; anything deeper than 3 inches spells danger, and birds will avoid it.

  • Rough bottom surface: Birds like solid footing when they wallow in the water. A slick bottomed birdbath won't attract many repeat customers.

  • Open site: A bathing bird is vulnerable to predators because it can't fly well when it feathers are wet and heavy. A clear view of approaching predators is vital. Allow at least 2 feet of open space on all sides of the bath.

  • Clean water: Algae, mud or droppings can quickly make bathwater unappealing. It's important to scrub your birdbaths daily and refill them with clean water.

  • Perches nearby: Position your bath within a few yards of a small tree so birds have a convenient place to sit and preen after bathing.

Choosing a Birdbath

Birdbaths can be quite an investment. A good quality terra-cotta birdbath may cost more than $50. If your budget is limited, you can use any shallow, wide container you have on hand. A tree stump can make a great natural birdbath pedestal. Top it with a clay saucer for the bath.

Attracting Birds

If you want immediate activity at your birdbath, try placing it near your feeding station. Also, choose a pedestal-type birdbath. The most reliable way to attract birds to your birdbath is to create the sound of dripping or running water. If you have an outside electrical outlet, a small, inexpensive re-circulating pump is worth it weight. Another easy way to create a dripping sound is to rig a bucket with holes in it over your birdbath. Punch a few small nail holes in the bottom of a gallon jug or plastic household bucket, fill with water, and check the drip. You want a slow drip-drip-drip that will get their attention. Just fill it once a day. The dripping sound will lure some birds, and after that their presence alone will attract other birds.

Seasonal Tips

Winter - drinking water is a premium for birds in the winter months. Lay a heating element or de-icer in your birdbath to keep the water accessible. ..or try the low-tech method of carrying out a saucer of warm water at regular times each day so the birds get accustomed to your schedule. Drinking is the main activity at winter birdbaths. If you have a deck, you might try one of the heated tilting birdbaths that makes it a snap to keep your birdbath clean and full.

Spring - Look for both resident and migrating birds. Those insect-eating birds that are not attracted to your feeders will certainly like a drink of fresh water.

Summer - When the weather gets hot, water for resident songbirds like robins, orioles and cardinals seek a nice cooling bath. Be sure to add a shallow dish of water close to the ground for other birds like towhees and thrushes that like to stay low. If summer brings drought, expect to see the unexpected. That's when birds that might not ordinarily visit your garden will come in for a drink.

Fall - Birdbath traffic often dies down in the fall as songbirds leave for warmer climates. House finches and house sparrows are still regular visitors.

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