How to Choose a Good Bird Bath for Your Garden

This birdbath stands about 3 feet tall.

A friend of mine in California recently emailed with inquiries about getting a bird bath for her yard, but her roommate was undecided due to the possibility of it attracting mosquitoes. I shared with her my own experience with the two baths in our garden along with what bit of knowledge I do have about bird baths. This got me to thinking. What does make a good bird bath? So, I decided to do some investigating of my own.

First, what I know:

  • While I would love a big bubbling fountain in my back yard, I don’t have the space for that and my yard does not currently have an outside electrical source to run it.   So size and space is an issue for me. My two bird baths, pictured here, are each only about eighteen inches wide. They both sit on wire stands so it’s easy to move them around and get them to fit into any space really without having to worry about plants being in the way.
  • Keeping it clean and convenient. Remember those big concrete bird baths you always saw in rock gardens years ago?  Other than turning it over so it didn’t freeze in the winter, I doubt they got little attention because they were just too heavy to manage. They became rain catchers, got covered in moss or algae, and attracted bugs.  And if you forgot to flip them over, they usually cracked over time. So stick with a bath that is easy to move, easy to clean, and easy to manage. Which leads me to my next point…
  • Don’t use anything that will rust or crack. Also stick with a shallow bath.  Birds don’t really want to go for a swim. They want to get in and be able to take flight quickly if something startles them. If you are using a deep container, it’s harder to clean and will collect debris and attract bugs.  And this leads me to…
  • BUGS!  Bugs like stagnant water that does not move. All the more reason to go with a smaller bird bath that is shallow.  If it’s getting a lot of bird activity, there’s no need to worry about bugs laying their eggs in it. If you aren’t seeing a lot of activity and the water is standing there for several days, consider moving the bath to a new location. Also empty it at least once a week and fill it with fresh water. Another reason you don’t want a large bird bath that you are apt to ignore because it’s too much trouble to clean or move.
This one is about 2 feet tall. It may look rusty but the basin is actually just discolored.

Now here are some tips I picked up from

  • Size: Small birdbaths are easy and convenient, but a larger model can accommodate a greater number of birds without causing territorial conflicts. At the same time, a larger bath can be more challenging to move or clean, though the fact that it will hold a greater volume of water can also be a benefit.
  • Appearance: If you choose a birdbath design you don’t like, you will be less inclined to keep it clean and filled. Choose a bath that fits well with your garden décor, personality and style preferences to ensure that you can enjoy it even without birds.
  • Landscape Proportions: Choose a birdbath that not only visually matches your garden, but one that is a suitable proportional size as well. A very large, ornate fountain birdbath will seem pretentious and out of place in a tiny backyard, while a very small, simple design can be lost in a lush garden.
  • Bird Comfort: The best birdbaths are designed with the birds in mind. A narrow lip is a more comfortable perch for small birds, and the material of the birdbath should offer some texture for tiny talons to grip. An ideal birdbath will be 1-2 inches deep, and some models include both shallow and deep areas of the basin to accommodate different birds.
  • Water Movement: Moving water will attract more birds than stagnant water in a simple basin. A birdbath that includes a dripper, water spray, bubbler or fountain is a better choice to attract a wide range of bird species. Furthermore, moving water will minimize insects and algae growth.
  • Height: The height of the birdbath is critical for which birds will readily drink from it. Smaller birds are comfortable at taller baths that give them a better field of view, while larger birds such as doves, quail and ducks prefer to drink from ground level basins.
  • Cleanliness: Elaborate birdbath designs with detailed sculptures or delicate mosaics can be more challenging to keep clean and free from damage. Simpler styles, such as concrete birdbaths, may be the best choice for ease of cleaning.
  • Design: Whether you choose a hanging birdbath, pedestal model or other basic design should depend on where you plan to put the bath. A hanging model is not the best choice if you don’t have anyplace to hang it from, and a large pedestal birdbath isn’t a good option for a yard with no suitable level areas.
  • Climate: The best birdbath for your yard is one you can use year round to provide a liquid water source for the birds. If you live in northern regions with long winters, a sturdy heated birdbath is the best choice, but if you live in warmer areas you may be more interested in a birdbath with a large capacity that will not evaporate on a daily basis.
  • Cost: A backyard birder’s budget can be meager or extravagant, but the most important thing to remember about a birdbath’s cost is that birds don’t read price tags. Choose the best birdbath model you can within your budget and the birds will be happy to drink from it.

For more tips, consider this post for types of bird baths or this post about cleaning your bird bath.

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