How To Attract Birds To A Birdbath

June 2, 2024

Imagine this: you are sitting on your porch with a steaming cup of coffee in hand. The morning is still quiet, and the few walkers wave as they exercise themselves and their dogs. In front of you; there is a splashing bird bath in the garden, a hub of activity. Here is how to attract them all.

Birds of various species take turns at the water, some dipping their beaks, others plunging in for a full bath. It’s a lively scene, and it starts your every morning. The splashing water catches the sunlight, creating tiny rainbows that flicker in and out of existence as quickly as the birds themselves.

This image shows a bird furiously splashing in a bird bath

You made this part of the morning routine because bird baths are more than just decorative garden features. They’re vital water sources for these feathered creatures, especially in areas where natural sources might be scarce. By mimicking the shallow edges of a stream or pond, bird baths provide a safe place for birds to hydrate, clean their feathers, and cool off.

And there’s a secret to making these bird baths even more enticing – keep them clean and filled with fresh water, and place them where birds feel safe from predators. You might even add a few stones inside to give smaller birds a place to perch.

As you watch, a cardinal fluffs its feathers, sending droplets flying, and a blue jay is impatient to get in. It’s a moment of connection with nature, a peaceful coexistence that starts your day with a sense of calm and connection.

So, what do you think? Ready to set up a bird bath and see what visitors come by? It’s a simple joy, but one that speaks to the heart of what it means to share our spaces in the natural world. Here is what we have learned in our many gardens. In the comments space, let me know about birds in your garden.

Make Your Bird Bath Safe For The Birds

You will be surprised at what the birds know. They will come to your garden, porch, and patio space, and return with their ‘plus ones’ to your birdbath if you give them what they need. (If you fail in this you and your pretty birdbath will be all alone!

Why Would I Put Rocks In The Bowl?

First, the birds want shallow water. They will be comfortable and approach your water if it is safe. The best depth is about two inches in the middle and one inch near the sides. You can attract smaller birds with a stone to stand on. If it sticks out of the water, that’s the best.

Make A Safe Surface

Next, make sure the surface the birds will stand on is comfortable. If you love a beautiful ceramic birdbath, make sure the inner surface is rough enough so that they can get a safe purchase with their feet. Too smooth, and they won’t use it. Try some stones across the bottom. Remember, you are simulating a natural water feature; make it easy to stand on.

Your birdbath needs to be stable, birds will reject any water source that is not. If your bird bath comes in two pieces, set the column firmly on the ground and place the bowl. Check it, the birds will!

Safe From Predators

We’ll talk about location later, but consider the birds’ known local predators and act accordingly. If the bath is near tall grasses where the cat lurks unseen, they’ll stay away and your pretty vessel will be wasted.

Where To Place The Bird Bath

First, pick a spot where you will see it and enjoy the birds (and notice any problems that may come up). We love to watch birds splash, near some shrubbery in full view of our front porch seating. Birds will bathe throughout the day but morning and evening when we use this south-facing porch are peak bath time! The shrubs and a nearby dwarf palm provide some shade and shelter.

A spot near shrubbery where birds can shelter from predators is helpful. Also if the site is not in full sun the water temperature will be more stable during the day. A reasonably quiet spot, separated from human play will work. Birds will often land in the branches, and then move on to the basin.

If you surround the birdbath with pollen and nectar-producing, flowering plants the insects will also attract birds.

Avoid a location next to windows, as sometimes there are some aeronautical errors on the part of birds.

Adding A Bird Bath

We like the front porch location so well, that we are adding another, just beyond the pool. It will offer partial sun, shrubbery, and some trees are nearby. It is in a garden space in full view of the house and pool patio. We will see the birds throughout the day and like the bath in the front, it will be convenient to clean and maintain. Keeping the bath clean is important, make it easy to do.

What Kind Of Bird Bath To Choose

Decide on size and shape. For example, some baths are low basins designed to sit on the ground. This will simulate the most common places where water is found, streams, ponds, and puddles. They will seem natural to the birds. Some charming designs will accent your space. Some look like flat stones with carved hollows, others have images and embellishments.

The two caveats here are that ground-level baths are most approachable by predators and are also the least visible for us to view and enjoy. The most common types are shallow basins set on a pedestal or stand. These are easy for us to clean and view and also come in a variety of styles and materials.

You can choose from various styles and materials. You can find forms that are formal or naturalistic, elaborate or simple. When choosing materials consider these facts:

  • Metal birdbaths are stylish and should be easy to clean. They will get hot and in our warm climate, we don’t use them. It is a lost opportunity for us.
  • Ceramic birdbaths are available in beautiful colors and patterns and the smooth surface makes them easy to clean. Birds may have trouble if the rim (where they land) or inside surface is too smooth to stand on comfortably. Small stones on the inside can help.
  • Cement, this is our choice. They are remarkably inexpensive and readily available. Many of the shapes are pretty. The texture is rough enough for the birds to be comfortable using it and the surface is not difficult to clean with a stiff brush and a strong spray from the garden hose. They are a little heavy but the basin and pedestal come apart for maintenance.
  • Important features in our garden are easy to clean and heavy in our hurricane-prone climate; We leave them in place all year, storms or not.

How To Keep The Bird Bath Clean

The safest cleaning material is just water if you can make that work. Use a strong spray of water from the garden hose and a stiff cleaning brush on a handle. We like one with plastic bristles that is easy to clean, itself. I clean the bird bath along with the early morning watering. The strong water spray empties the bowl, I can quickly brush the surface, wash out the cleaning water, and refill the bowl. With the cement bowl’s textured surface I don’t use loose stones and cleaning with a hard spray is easy.

Like any garden chore that needs regular repetition, this one gets more faithful performance if we make it convenient.

Moving Water Attracts Birds

We do not have moving water, just simple bowls and we see regular bird activity. However, birds are attracted to the sound and sparkle of moving water and if you can provide a fountain or bubbling feature you should see more birds, and faster.

You can find birdbaths that are also fountains and there is a tiny bubbler you can buy to sit in the bowl.

Mosquitoes

We have a still water basin, and have no issues with mosquitoes. Regular cleaning and changing the water work for us. Moving water will also help.

Questions And Problems

Make sure that the bath is stable, the birds will not use any basin that is not solid. Do not paint the basin or use cleaning products. Some sources advise a weak solution of bleach and aggressive rinsing. I have been tempted to use this on our current rough surfaced bowl, but aggressive use of our brush has done the job.

This piece from the National Wildlife Federation discusses gardening with wildlife in mind.

Summary,

Would you like to learn more about birds and birding. The Cornell University Ornithology lab will teach you a lot. Try it.

Grimpy bathing bird

Keep your birdbath clean and safe, make sure it is in a place where you will see it often as you go about your day. Bird species that are not attracted to a bird feeder because it does not suit their eating patterns will need water and a bath. You will get constant pleasure from this simple addition to your garden space. If you would like to round out your small creature invitation to your garden try ‘What The Butterflies Want.

Let me know in the comments field if you are enjoying the birds!