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Backyard Bird Bath Basics

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Who doesn’t like to take a dip in the water on occasion? Our feathered friends certainly enjoy a splash party from time to time. Bird feeders attract birds to the landscape, but putting in a bird bath is another sure way to bring various species of birds to the backyard. 


Birds not only need the water to drink, but they also need it to keep their feathers clean. Songbirds average around 1,500 to 3,000 feathers, while birds of prey have between 5,000 and 8,000 feathers. Each feather has a part in a bird’s life, and they are essential in terms of warmth, flight, courtship, protection and even defense. This is why it’s important to provide a place for birds to preen. 


When shopping for a bird bath, look for one that is shallow, no deeper than about 2.5 inches. Gardeners who opt for a deeper vessel can always place a few rocks in the water so birds can perch on the rocks to splash and preen. Choose one with a wide bowl and a gentle slope. Also, a rough or coarse surface will help with traction. 


When deciding where to put the bird bath in the landscape, consider the proximity of the water source as well as safety from predators. The birds need to be able to see any danger and have time to fly away. Placing it under a tree is a good idea as birds like cover. It makes them feel protected and secure. Locating it near prickly bushes also helps deter cats and other predators. A bird bath can also be placed on the ground or hung from a tree. 


Try to place it in a shady spot to reduce the evaporation rate. Plus, algae doesn’t grow as quickly in cool water as it does in warmer water. It’s best to change the water daily to keep it fresh and more appealing to the birds. About once a week, empty the bird bath and give it a stiff spray from the garden hose to wash away dirt and grime that may have accumulated. A small scrub brush could be handy, too. 


Finally, birds are attracted to the sound of moving water, which can be accomplished in several ways. Adding a simple solar fountain is easy. Another option is to attach a garden hose to a tree and let it slowly drip into the bird bath. Gardeners could also hang a plastic jug filled with water that has a hole in it about a half inch from the bottom of the jug over the bird bath to provide a constant drip of water. 


With the heat of the summer just around the corner, consider adding a block of ice to the bird bath can help cool down the water. 


Bird baths aren’t just for summer – they’re good additions to the landscape year-round. Despite the cold, winter weather, birds still need a place to clean their feathers. Adding a heater to the bird bath almost guarantees your feathered friends will still be appearing in the backyard throughout the winter. 

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