All About Birdbaths

Experts say that adding a birdbath is the easiest way to attract more birds to your yard.

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Want more birds in your yard? Adding a birdbath to your outdoor space will attract birds and other wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation says a reliable source of clean water is essential for creating a wildlife garden.

What Is a Birdbath?

A birdbath provides water for birds to drink and bathe in. A decorative birdbath can also double as garden art.

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Types of Birdbaths

All birdbaths have a shallow basin to hold water. Beyond that, you have plenty of choices. Pick a birdbath with a pedestal or mimic a natural water source with a birdbath that sits on the ground. A heated birdbath or birdbath deicer provides birds with a fresh water source in winter. And, delight people and birds alike with a cascade of water by splurging on a tiered birdbath with fountain.

You can also pick a colorful birdbath with your flowerbeds to create an instant focal point, says The Hoosier Gardener Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, .

Birdbath Features

The best birdbaths have gently sloping sides and a rough surface to let birds wade in safely. If your birdbath is deeper than two to three inches, add gravel or sand to the bottom. Sharp also recommends giving pollinators a helping hand by adding rocks to create an island. “It gives a place for bees and butterflies to land,” she says.

Create a Splash With Your Birdbath

Use a fountain, battery-operated water agitator or bubbler to attract birds with the sound of splashing water — hummingbirds especially love a fine spray. Moving water also prevents mosquitoes from laying their eggs.

The Best Place for a Birdbath

Place your birdbath near a low branch to help birds feel safe. To keep people safe, put your birdbath on a level surface to limit the risk of tipping. Secure birdbaths on balconies or use a birdbath that attaches to a railing.

Solar-powered birdbath fountains can be placed in any sunny spot, while a plug-in birdbath or accessories will need an electrical outlet nearby.

Most of all, put your birdbath where you can enjoy watching the birds that visit.

How to Clean a Birdbath

Janet Draper, a Smithsonian Gardens curator who knows about turning your garden into a wildlife habitat, says, “Clean it often!” Cleaning every two to three days will limit algae, mosquitoes and diseases that can hurt your feathered friends.

A scrub brush with a long handle will make the job easier — a grill brush or even a clean toilet brush can also be repurposed for the task. A strong blast of water can also help remove debris and then refill your birdbath at the same time (yes, ordinary tap water is fine).

Audubon.org says you can also clean your birdbath with a solution of one part vinegar to nine parts water, but to skip using any soaps or detergents that could strip oils from birds’ feathers. Julia Elliot of Bird Watcher Supply Company agrees, saying, “Soap almost always leaves a residue — that’s why we don’t recommend it for washing hummingbird feeders, either.” Instead, she recommends a weak (10:1) solution of water to bleach to disinfect your birdbath.

Buy or Build Your Birdbath?

Whether you buy or make your own birdbath depends on your level of creativity and energy. Keep it simple by lining a shallow hole in the ground with concrete, or repurpose household items, such as dishes and even hubcaps, for a quirky DIY birdbath. “If it holds water, the birds will use it!” Draper says. Just make sure you don’t use materials that could be harmful to birds, such as anything that is heavily corroded or has flaking paint.

Fixing a Broken Birdbath

You can fix a cracked concrete birdbath with concrete epoxy. Or, avoid cracks in the first place with a sturdy plastic birdbath.

If the bowl is beyond repair, you can buy a replacement birdbath bowl or convert your broken birdbath to a dish garden and plant it with succulents.

Helen Newling Lawson
Helen Newling Lawson is a published garden writer and freelance content marketing professional. She is a lifelong gardener, originally from central New Jersey but now digging in Georgia clay. She has been a University of Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer since 2002 and earned the Georgia Certified Plant Professional certification in 2017. A regional director of GardenComm, the Association of Garden Communicators, Helen is a contributor to magazines including Country Gardens, Birds and Blooms, Georgia Magazine, Nursery Management, State-by-State Gardening, and Atlanta Parent. She has also developed content for clients in a range of industries, from tech to the green industry. She enjoys photography, often supplying her own images for editorial use, and hikes and does yoga in her spare time.