How to Get Birds to Use a Bird Bath: 5 Awesome Tips!

how to get birds to use a bird bath

Having a bird bath in the garden is a nice way to observe birds, and it also provides them with the water they need to preen and drink. Getting the birds to use it may not be so easy, but as long as it is well placed, maintained and allows them to feel safe and comfortable, they will come to use it. Here are 5 awesome tips to help you get birds to come use your bird bath.

1. Placement

One of the most important factors for attracting birds to your bird bath is where you place it. Putting it in the middle of the garden in the sun might make it look good, but you may not get many birds using it. Direct sunlight can also make the water evaporate, so think carefully about where the best place in your garden is.

  • Where you can see it. While you want the birds to use it and get the best from it, you also want to be able to enjoy watching them. Choose a place outside the window where you can watch them in comfort. If you put it in front of a large windows our garden door, be careful if you approach while they’re in the bath or you may frighten them off.
  • Shade: Birds like to cool off in a bird bath so put it somewhere where there is some shade. If it’s in direct sunlight this will make the water evaporate quicker and make the water warmer. Warmer water can encourage algae growth too, and birds won’t be very attracted to bathing in that.
  • Nearby cover: Birds will feel happier using your bird bath if there is some cover nearby. They won’t fly straight down to it and will first scan the area to check that it is clear and then fly down. It also provides a good place for them to fly to if a cat appears, and they can sit and wait until it’s gone before they return to the bath. When they have finished their bath they usually fly back to the cover to preen.
  • Taps / electricity. If you have an outside tap or a pump, you may need to place it close to a tap or an electric outlet.

2. Height

Natural water in rivers and ponds is on the ground, to placing a bird bath too high will put birds off from using it. A low pedestal will work but nothing over a foot high.

Remember, too, that if a bird is on the ground he could be prey to a cat. If the bath is close to shrubs, move it a little further out so that the birds will get some warning if a cat is sneaking up on them.

3. Add water

Water is obviously essential to attracting birds, but don’t make it too deep. Remember that smaller birds will not be able to stand in deep water, and to then this can be just a couple of inches. They just need enough to splash over themselves and feel comfortable when they stand so 1-2 inches of water is usually enough. The water can be normal tap water and doesn’t need to be treated or boiled first.

  • Birds, particularly smaller ones, won’t go in to water if it’s too deep. They prefer to stand on the edge of the water where it’s safe. Adding a few stones to the bird bath can encourage them to come and try it as they can stand in the bath not feel out of their depth.
  • The surface of your bird bath is important too. Pea gravel added to the bottom of the bath will give the birds something solid to grip on to, and it will feel more natural as well. Natural water in streams and lakes will have stones and gravel, so the birds will feel more at home if it is in your bird bath. Some bird baths may not look it, but they can also be slippery when filled with water.

Quick note: Here’s a fantastic video from Hank Will of GRIT Magazine on a couple of extra tips to entice birds to your bird bath, enjoy!

4. Moving water

Another method of attracting birds is to add moving water. They like the sound and look of moving water and it reflects the sun to catch their attention. There are a couple of ways you can do this, depending on your budget and skills.

  • If you can, add a recirculating pump and some bird baths may come with one already fitted. These also have the added benefit of keeping the water cleaner, but they may need a power outlet and can take some time to install.
  • A mister or dripper is another way of creating movement in the water. These will need a water supply but they are easy to set up.

Moving water also has the advantage of preventing mosquitoes  from reproducing and it can help stop algae from growing on top of the water.

5. Maintain it

Now you’re all set up and the birds are using your bird bath, you need to make sure that they keep coming back. They won’t be attracted to a dirty, stagnant bath which is never maintained so here’s how to keep it maintained all year round.

  • The very fact that it is outside will mean the bird bath has to be kept clean. Along with dust, bugs and leaves, it will also be home to bird poop. This isn’t a great way to attract birds to use it. Simply tipping the old water out every other day and replacing it will go some way towards enticing birds, but make sure you give it a good clean when it needs it. Just empty out the water and use a hard brush to scrape the bottom of the bath before refilling it.
  • If you see algae start to form on the top, change the water immediately. If you don’t it will quickly spread and you’ll have to encourage the birds to come back.
  • Bird baths need attention in winter too when the water freezes. In winter birds need fresh water more than ever, so you need to make sure the ice is kept at bay as much as possible. Adding a solar powered bird bath heater will help prevent the water from freezing and means you don’t have to go out and check every day. Never use anything to stop the water from freezing, such as anti-freeze or glycerine, as both can be harmful to birds.
  • Conversely in summer check the water levels regularly on hot days. In very hot weather it can evaporate quickly, leaving the birds with no water to bathe in.

There you have it, 5 great tips for getting birds to use your bird bath!

Happy birding 🙂

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