Add moving water to your bird bath and you're guaranteed to attract more birds than ever before. Here are four different ways to do it.
Why do birds love moving water?
Why? Who knows. My guess is that in nature, moving water is generally cleaner than stagnant water, so birds are instinctively drawn to moving water. If you have another idea, I’d love to hear it. Please share in the comments below.
With moving water in your bird bath you’ll get plenty of songbirds and you’ll also get birds that won’t come to your feeders (except to eat other birds….)
Options for moving water in your bird bath
You can add moving water to your existing bird bath with a regular or solar-powered mini-fountain, by adding a dripper kit, a bubbler, using a Water Wiggler or by placing a water mister over or near the bird bath.
If you want to go low-tech, you can even hang a jug of water with a tiny hole in the bottom over your bird bath. (I've tried this - either it doesn't drip at all or it needs refilling every half-hour. But maybe you'll have better luck!)
Difference between a fountain and a dripper
Add a fountain for the most moving water
A bird bath fountain is a small pump that takes the water that’s already in your bird bath and squirts it into the air. Fountains may be solar powered, but you can also get them with electrical cords.
Most of the solar powered fountains operate directly on light but some do include a battery that stores a few hours’ worth of power.
A fountain doesn’t need a hose or outside source of water and won’t keep your bird bath topped up. Fountains that have electrical cords can run as long as you leave them plugged in.
Solar fountains depend entirely on light to make them work, so on sunny days, the water will flow well and you’ll get a good spray. On cloudy days, the flow may be much less powerful or may stop entirely. Most solar fountains don’t have the power to make a tall, impressive spray.
In both cases, the fountain will have a small filter to keep debris out of the motor. You’ll need to give the filter a bit of attention occasionally to keep the water flowing smoothly.
- Solar fountains are quick to set up and don’t need access to water or electricity
- Adds the beauty of a small fountain to your setup
- Adds both motion and sound to the bird bath
- Can be used in any bird bath that is big enough for the fountain’s base or pump.
- Filter needs checking for clogs occasionally
- Won’t keep your bird bath full in very hot weather
- Solar fountains function less efficiently without strong, direct sunlight
A dripper is usually an arched metal or bendable plastic tube that attaches to your bird bath to drip water from a height of a foot (30 cm) or so. It doesn’t draw water from the bird bath itself, which means you need to attach it to a hose.
You can use a Y connector at the hose bib so it doesn’t hog the faucet, and bury the hose in the lawn or garden to keep things pretty. An inexpensive irrigation timer will control the flow rate and timing so it’s not running too fast or overnight.
If you want to experiment with the concept before spending any money, you can make a simple dripper out of an empty distilled water or milk jug. Just fill it with water, put the lid on loosely, and poke a pin hole in one corner. Suspend the jug a foot or two (30-60 cm) over the bird bath and watch what happens.
- Adds both sound and motion to the bird bath
- When connected to a hose, drippers help keep the bird bath full and fresh on hot days
- Small birds often perch on the drip pipe and drink directly from the flowing water, which is beyond cute
- Can be used on any size bird bath as it doesn’t need to sit inside the basin
- Requires running a hose to the bird bath
- Requires some (easy) assembly
- If you decide to go with the ‘jug method’, you’ll have to check it at least once a day to make sure there’s enough water in it.
Related: Choosing the best bird bath
You might also like: How to attract wild birds you love
What the heck is a Water Wiggler?
Water Wiggler is the brand name of several products from Allied Precision that, er, wiggle the water in your bird bath, producing constant silent ripples on the surface of the water.
It operates 24/7 on a couple of D cells (good for two months or more). The moving water does attract birds, and also does a good job of keeping mosquitoes from laying their eggs in it.
- Silent operation, a great plus if the sound of a dripping tap irritates you
- Doesn’t scare birds
- Runs 24/7 and stops mosquitoes from breeding
- Doesn’t need a hose or timer
- Other than taking the battery out, there’s no way to turn it off.
- Batteries will need changing every couple of months or so
- Some users think the white plastic looks cheap, but you can spray paint the plastic to any color you want.
Misters: the easiest way to add moving water
If you haven’t heard of misters before, let me explain. A mister is a miniature brass nozzle with a very fine opening (about the size of a needle tip) for water.
It attaches either to the end of a standard garden hose or to a smaller-diameter attachment hose and can be placed anywhere you can get the hose to stay put.
Birds love them— this little hummingbird just can’t get enough!
A mister produces a very fine mist that is often used to water delicate seedlings like tomato plants without squashing them, to provide water for birds and to cool off outdoor spaces on very hot days.
Because of the very fine opening, misters do get clogged after awhile. It’s not easy to clean them, and some have delicate fittings that wear out quickly and can’t be replaced. However, quite they’re inexpensive. If one ‘dies’ it’s easier to replace it and recycle the old one.
- Uses minimal water – 0.5 to 1.0 US gal/hour, depending on what size nozzle you use.
- Multiple uses
- Very inexpensive
- Can be placed anywhere
- You can use an inexpensive irrigation timer to control when the water is running
- The fine nozzles tend to clog, especially if you have very hard water or fine debris in the water. (You can overcome this by placing a filter attachment on the garden hose, but the expense is hardly worth it when replacement nozzles are so cheap.)
- It needs to be attached to a hose. (You can always bury the hose under turf or mulch if it’s going to be in place for the long term.)
- You have to find a way to anchor the hose in place, unless you use some sort of mister stand.
There are lots of ways to add moving water to your bird bath. Pick one and watch your bird bath become a local "airport"!
Top Image: Hummingbird in fountain. Credit: Mike’s Birds, CC by SA 2.0