How To Attract Hummingbirds to Your Birdbath

Updated: Jun. 19, 2024

Experts explain how hummingbird baths can clean and cool these winged wonders, but only if they're the right type, in the right location.

Turning your yard into the ultimate hummingbird habitat lets you appreciate the magical beauty of these flying jewels and promotes their work as beneficial pollinators. Hummingbird expert Dr. Alison Moran explains that hummingbird baths provide a place for them to wash, cool down and dilute strong nectar. However, traditional big birdbaths aren’t beneficial for these tiny beauties.

I spoke to several hummingbird experts to find out how to help hummingbirds bathe smoothly and safely in your garden.

Why Won’t Hummingbirds Come to My Birdbath?

When you’ve spent a small fortune on a beautiful birdbath to attract hummingbirds to your yard, it’s frustrating if they avoid it. Here are some common reasons why your birdbath may not be getting any love.

It’s too deep

Master Bird Bander Jennifer McCarthey Tyrrell says hummingbirds don’t use traditional birdbaths as they are typically too deep for the tiny species.

There’s a threat from predators

Hummingbirds are an easy target for a cat, so if yours (or someone else’s) constantly lurks underneath your birdbath, that could be the issue.

Territorial behavior

Bird conservationist Kaitlyn Parkins explains that hummingbirds can be combative creatures. When resources are too close together, this can prevent less dominant species from accessing them.

Best Places to Put a Hummingbird Birdbath

Where you position your water source can make a big difference in whether it gets used. Here are some of the best places to position hummingbird baths.

  • Near branches: “Set up a [DIY hummingbird] mister to spray towards some branches or a perch to allow the birds to bathe without actually providing a dish or reservoir of any kind,” Tyrell says.

  • High off the ground: “Site any water features away from, or well above, where sit-and-wait predators might pounce,” Parkins says.

  • Away from windows: This helps prevent bird-window collisions.

Other Tips to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Birdbath

These expert-approved tips will help make your hummingbird baths more attractive to these tiny visitors.

Use misters

Often, hummingbirds prefer flying through or sitting under a gentle spray. “A moving water feature such as a mister, dripper, or solar fountain might do the trick,” Parkins says.

Use shallow pools

Tiny hummingbirds baths need to be very shallow. A hummingbird fountain or bubbler replicating the movement and sound of the creeks they naturally bathe in can draw them in. Tyrell also suggests adding small pebbles. This helps the birds see the bath isn’t too deep, and bees and other pollinators might drink from it.

Provide a reliable nectar source

If you don’t provide a reliable nectar source in your yard, hummingbird baths will likely go unvisited. Tyrell recommends introducing native flowers that attract hummingbirds and replacing feeder nectar every 3 to 5 days.

Create a safe environment

Behavioral ecologist Dr. Emma Greig emphasizes the importance of making your yard safe for hummingbirds. She recommends keeping cats indoors and avoiding harmful pesticides.

Be patient

“Sometimes hummingbirds just don’t need to bathe as much as we might hope, so they may not visit your birdbath regularly,” Dr. Greig says. If you’ve tried all the tips above and experimented with the location, be patient. The birds often need time to become comfortable with new water features.

How to Avoid Spreading Diseases Via Hummingbirds Baths

It’s important to regularly clean your birdbath to prevent biofilm formation and the transfer of diseases and parasites. Dr. Moran recommends providing fresh water daily and cleaning with vinegar rather than strong, film-forming detergents. Also, purchase something easy to clean. “Whenever there are inaccessible parts, there is the potential for problems,” she says.

Dr. Moran also cautions against using plastic hummingbird baths. There are concerns about microplastic contamination, the absorption of pollutants that can transfer to the birds, and the effect of plasticizers on the birds’ endocrine [hormone-regulating] system, especially when leaching into a warm system. While keeping the bath out of the sun reduces the risk, selecting a concrete or ceramic birdbath might be better.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do hummingbirds like birdbaths?

While hummingbirds don’t need birdbaths, they can enjoy a cooling and cleaning mist or dip, providing the water isn’t too deep or spraying too forcefully.

Do hummingbirds bathe?

Hummingbirds bathe to clean their plumage and cool down. “Washing is important for keeping feathers in good condition for flying and bathing helps to remove a lot of particulate that can accumulate,” Dr. Moran says. She also explains that hovering is an energy-intensive mode of flight and a bath can help hummingbirds shed heat, especially when summer temperatures soar.

Do hummingbirds drink from a birdbath?

Hummingbirds typically get sufficient hydration from the nectar they consume. However, Dr. Moran says we often see hummingbirds drinking at fountains when they’ve encountered overly concentrated nectar and must dilute it.

Should you put a hummingbird feeder near a birdbath?

It’s best to place hummingbird feeders and birdbaths in different parts of your yard. “It can cause territorial fights if birds are trying to bathe within sight of a territorial male who’s guarding a feeder,” Tyrell says.

How deep should a hummingbird birdbath be?

“Having a birdbath that is deeper than a half inch would prevent a hummingbird from using it,” Tyrell says.

About the Experts

  • Dr. Emma Greig is a behavioral ecologist and the Project Leader for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s FeederWatch program; email interview, Jun. 4, 2024.

  • Jennifer McCarthey Tyrrell is a Master Bird Bander and the Engagement Manager for Audobon South Carolina; email interview, Jun. 4, 2024.

  • Alison Moran, PhD, is the Coordinator of the Hummingbird Project at Rocky Point Bird Observatory; email interview, Jun. 6, 2024.

  • Kaitlyn Parkins has been working in wildlife conservation since 2008 and is the Glass Collisions Program Coordinator at the American Bird Conservancy; email interview, Jun. 7, 2024.