Updated: Apr 13
Clean water is possibly THE best attractant for a variety of birds and wildlife. Why? finding a source of clean water can be difficult in the wild.
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Why are birdbaths important?
The bulk of a bird's body consists of 60-70% water depending upon species and weight! A small bird, such as your favorite feeder visitor, can cycle through or 'refresh' 25% of its total body water each day! Birdbaths provide fresh, clean water for birds, often in areas where water can be scarce or potentially contaminated. Humans have altered, used, and abused natural water sources for thousands of years. These alterations can have major detrimental impacts on wild birds, but one way that we as place-based conservationists can help mitigate these impacts is by providing water for birds through birdbaths, drips, and more! Additionally, birdbaths can attract birds that would not visit a feeder, such as warblers, vireos, and thrushes.
What is a birdbath (or bird bath)?
Simply, a birdbath is a source of fresh, clean water for birds and other wildlife to drink and clean themselves in. Often, it is an artificial basin or a basin made from natural materials such as stone. Birdwatchers use birdbaths to attract birds to their backyards by providing this source of water that birds can utilize during migration, drought, and winter.
What are the different types of birdbaths?
Birdbaths come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. Here at Flocking Around, we prefer to use birdbaths consisting of natural materials such as stone. However, this is not a viable option for all backyard birdwatchers. So here is a list of the types of birdbaths available on the market.
Standard birdbath - the typical birdbath seen in backyards are a circular basin on a stand. You can also find a hanging and ground version as well. They can be made from materials such as:
Plastic - This is the cheapest type of birdbath you will find, however, they are usually not stable and have frequent mold growth issues. The durability of these feeders is less than ideal.
Glass - These are often beautiful pieces of art, offering more for an ornamental value than a long-term birdbath. Why? Glass can crack quickly from a small drop or temperature change. However, these are often easy to clean and limit mold growth.
Stone - Stone and concrete are both lumped into this material type. Concrete is very porous and is conducive to mold growth. Stone can be porous as well... if you pick a porous stone type. However, with a proper stone type and proper maintenance, stone can be the best type of birdbath.
Metal - Metal is a close second to stone, and possibly higher, if the metal is of a higher quality. Soft metals that scratch easily are likely to induce mold growth. Copper is frequently used in birdbaths, even though it is softer, simply because copper is an anti-fungal. Again, it is the quality of the copper you need to consider when purchasing. Metal can get hot, however, so make sure you have your metal birdbath out of direct sunlight.
Fountain birdbath - Fountain birdbaths provide nice decor for backyards, but more importantly, they do two things: circulate and filter.
Circulate - water movement is important in birdbaths. Moving water is easier for birds to see, and it helps reduce stagnation, mold, and insects.
Filter - Many fountain birdbaths have the ability to use a filter for helping keep the bath clean. If you are unable to provide consistent maintenance on your birdbath, this is a great idea to help keep your water clean.
Pond - A natural pond or a pond with an artificial liner can attract larger birds. Smaller birds will be wary if there is no shallow area to drink and bathe. If you use a pond, make sure to provide an exit for birds, aka a ramp. Artificial ponds can become stagnant and dirty very quickly unless you have a filtration and pump system attached.
Stream - An artificial stream may be the ultimate water feature for birds. However, it is likely the most expensive to create. It will require moving water, a shallow basin, usually with heavy stones, and a catchment for recirculating water.
Bird Drip - A drip is possibly the favorite for a budget-friendly water feature. Why? It combines a basin with a feature for water movement. Water movement is critical for attracting birds, and a drip accomplishes that task.
What is the best type of birdbath?
The best type of birdbath a) has water moving from a drip or pump and b) is made of natural materials and is easy to clean. On a budget, the drip feature with a stone birdbath basin is my favorite source of clean water for birds. However, with a large budget, a stream feature may be the best source you can offer for birds and other wildlife. However, if you are not DIY savvy, you might want a simple purchase with less effort. If that is the case, some examples are below. If you want to know how to create a drip, move on to the next section. OR, buy a basin and add a drip!
Where can I purchase a birdbath?
Your local hardware store will likely have the best options unless you have a birdfeeding store in your location. However, for those rural folks who do not have stores with ample birdfeeding sections, Amazon has a wide variety of options available to you.
Which birdbath should I purchase?
If you are going the purchase route, here are a few ideas and selections that may interest you. Budget-friendly options will start the list, gradually building into more complex options for those who are looking to spend a bit more.
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Standup Birdbath - Stone Fiberclay Birdbath
This birdbath is an affordable, sturdy birdbath. It is made of fiberclay, and it comes with a hollow middle that can be filled with sand to aid in anchoring the birdbath down. It is more affordable and lighter than a full stone or concrete standup birdbath. Use the standup dripper (see below) to create water movement.
Deck Attachment Birdbath - Yosager Bird Bath Deck Bowl
This polypropylene birdbath comes with a built-in stainless steel clamp for attaching to a deck or porch area. It is budget-friendly and can be used by those who live in condos or apartments. If you want water movement, you will need to check out a drip (see below) or a bubbler.
Heated Deck Birdbath - GESAIL Heated Birdbath All Season Bird bath
While the plastic basin is not our favorite design, the easy attachment of this birdbath with a built-in heater and thermostat makes for a worthy inclusion in this list. If you live in an area with cold months, this birdbath could prove to be beneficial to you!
Standup Birdbath Fountain - Nova 3-Tier Pedestal Bird Bath Fountain
The resin-make of this birdbath makes it very lightweight. It will need to be secured VERY WELL. However, the built in pump allows for water movement that can help to attract birds, and the three basin design will allow for birds of various sizes to use the birdbath. However, at this budget-friendly price point, we have to wonder how long this will last for us.
What is a drip?
A bird drip or dipper is a tool used to create small water movements within your birdbath. As we discussed earlier, the movement of water helps to attract more birds to your birdbath. There are a variety of methods to create a birdbath drip system, however, I drew a rudimentary example of my preferred style of dripping. A large, secured tank with an adjustable nozzle, a simple, fixed tube, and a natural stone catchment, layered basin makes for an exceptional attraction to wild birds.
Which bird drip should I purchase?
For the less than handy, there are simple drips also sold in various marketplaces. Here are some of those options if building your own drip is not something that brings you excitement:
Standing Birdbath Drip - Stainless Steel Pedestal Bird Bath Dripper
This is our favorite non-DIY birdbath dripper. Why? The free-standing aspect and the 50 ft of hose with adjustable drip control. This works perfectly with standup birdbaths that need a tool to create water movement. It can attach to an existing drip system, rigged together with a hose, or attached to a tank (such as a rainwater collector).
Deck and tabletop Bird Dripper - Birds Choice Dripper with Rock Base
This bird dripper is a great option for ground birdbath or deck-attached birdbath due to its small size. It can attach to an existing drip system, rigged together with a hose, or attached to a tank (such as a rainwater collector). We still prefer the larger standup option to this tabletop version.
Birdbath with Dripper - Birds Choice Ground Level Bird Bath with Dripper
This expensive little setup is great if you want the prebuilt birdbath and dripper system. However, you will be limited by the basin size and where it can fit or attach within your backyard or deck.
Put a waterfall in your birdbath!
Electric Birdbath Waterfall - Birds Choice Stonecreek Waterfall
If you want a water element that adds some style to your birdbath or water basin, this little electric water pump moves water very well. The only negative is the depth required to keep the pump running. Smaller birds prefer shallow basins, and this pump cannot be used in a shallow birdbath.
What is the best bird bath for hummingbirds?
Hummingbirds, and other small birds, need VERY shallow basins. Deep basins are not appreciated by these little flyers, due to the risk of drowning (and underwater predators). Some of the best hummingbird birdbaths are stone fountain systems that bubble and never contain more than a quarter-inch of water in the basin at any moment. These systems are pricey, but if you live in the migratory corridor of hummingbirds, they can create spectacles!
In the photo above, you can see the inner basin is deeper, and the hummingbirds are bathing on the edge of the fountain, where the water is moving over the edge and is quite shallow.
Models like this will typically have to be purchased from a specialty store. However, if you cannot locate any in your area, here is an option for you. Warning. They are not cheap.
Hummingbird Birdbath - Stone Patio Fountain
This small fountain is shallow enough to attract hummingbirds and can be placed on a deck or elevated area due to its size. For its small size, its price is great. If you want to see the taller version, check it out here.
How to clean a birdbath?
Cleaning a birdbath is simple. Use nine parts water and one part vinegar. Do not use soaps or cleaners, as they can leave a dangerous residue. You might have to give the birdbath a scrub if there is some algae growth.
How to keep a birdbath safe?
There are a few steps you can take to make sure your birdbath is safe:
Clean your birdbath frequently.
Add stones or a ramp to a deep basin birdbath to allow birds a chance to escape if they fall in.
Refill and/or change the water daily.
Do not place the birdbath under trees and brush. Falling debris can create a dirty birdbath.
Add a moving water feature to discourage insects and attract more birds.
Do not let your water freeze in cold temperatures. Either use a heater like these from Amazon, or remove the birdbath during these temperatures.