Want to see more birds where you live? Set up a bird bath and watch them flock to your yard.
Related: Birds love moving water
You'll get more types of birds too - even birds that don't use feeders will come to a bird bath - just watch this little owl clean herself up!
Why do birds bathe?
For survival: a couple of recent studies indicate that dirty feathers don’t fly as well as clean ones.
Birds with dirty feathers are clumsy in flight and less able to escape predators, which makes cleanliness an absolute necessity for survival.
Birds also carry a number of parasites that may be kept under control by frequent water and dust baths.
Bathing may even be important to birds' mental health: a 2012 British study found that birds with no access to bathing water were more reluctant to eat and more anxious about alarm calls.
Finally, although they don’t sweat, birds do need to replace the water they lose by breathing and pooping.
Bird baths are a welcome source of drinking water for thirsty birds, especially in freezing weather.
How deep should a bird bath be?
Did you know that birds (and people) can and do drown in as little as three inches (8 cm) of water? That’s why wild birds bathe in shallow puddles and not in lakes or ponds.
Bird baths that attract birds are easy to clean and shaped like a shallow puddle, with a non-slip edge stand on and a gentle slope leading to a maximum depth of two inches (5cm). The inner surface is textured so birds can get a good footing and there are places to perch all around the rim.
A bird bath should be at least 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. Larger is fine, but a smaller basin will limit the type of birds that can use it.
If you already have a bird bath that’s more than two inches deep, line the bottom with pebbles and add an arrangement of larger stones to reduce the depth.
Gravel, stones and pebbles are good ways to create secure footing inside a smooth basin too.
Related: Birds love moving water
Where should I set up a bird bath?
To attract more birds, the best location for a bird bath is a sunny spot with nearby plants or shrubs where they can quickly hide from predators.
This is important as wet birds don’t fly well.
Even better would be a tree or large bush within 10 to 20 feet where they can sit and preen their feathers.
The bird bath should be a good distance from any windows a bird might fly into.
The base of the bird bath should be on a firm surface so it doesn't sink or tip easily.
It will also be much easier to keep clean and healthy if there are no feeders close by.
Finding the ideal bird bath location
If you’re adding a bird bath for the first time, you might be wondering how to choose the right spot for it. Let’s look at a few factors that would make a location ideal :
- Trees or shrubs nearby – but not too close
- No cover where cats and other predators can lurk
- In direct sunlight
- Far away from window hazards
- No bird feeders close by
- A solid foundation
- Within easy reach of your garden hose
Keep your bird bath clean
Before setting up a bird bath, consider whether you have the ability and resolve to keep it very clean.
Birds won’t use a dirty bird bath. They won’t drink from it. They won’t bathe in it. They won’t even perch on it.
So if your plan is to attract more birds with a bird bath, you’ll need another plan for keeping it clean.
A clean bird bath is a gift to the eyes and doesn’t spread disease to birds (or humans).
At a minimum, dump the water every day, hose it out with the pressure nozzle and give it a good scrub every 2-3 days.
Attract more birds with moving water
Here's the number one secret to attract more birds with a bird bath: birds LOVE moving water. It's absolutely irresistible.
There are lots of easy ways to add water to your bird bath - this person has made a few holes in a hose laid on the edge of the bath. As you can see in the video, birds go crazy for it.
So there you have it – the essential “secret” of turning your bird bath into a local “airport”!
Top Image: This gorgeous ceramic bird bath was made by Andrea Hill Pottery