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How to Choose the Best Birdbath for Your Yard

How to Choose the Best Birdbath for Your Yard

Spring is upon us and there's no better time to fill your yard with blooming buds, verdant plants, and gorgeous yard art. Decorating your garden and yard area is one of the most fun parts of the spring season. Take the time to get your outdoor space set up before the stifling heat of summer is upon us. 

A great thing about spending time outside is experiencing a variety of wildlife. From birds to deer to squirrels, making your yard a safe haven for critters will give you free entertainment for months to come and the satisfaction of being a caring environmental steward. 

Selecting the best birdbath will give birds a place to clean themselves and drink in your garden. Did you know that there are multiple types of birdbaths to choose from?

In this birdbath buying guide, we'll go through everything you need to know in selecting the right type for your yard as well as care and maintenance tips.

How Can a Birdbath Help Local Wildlife?

A birdbath is essential to making your yard the hotspot for all the winged creatures in your neighborhood. Birds need clean, fresh water for bathing and drinking. Knowing there's a dependable source of water in your yard will keep them coming back throughout the seasons. 

There are some species of birds that don't frequent bird feeders. Having water present in your yard will draw in these types of birds, since they won't be attracted to your typical bird feeder.

Some types of birds that prefer alternative food offerings to standard bird seed are:

  • Bluebirds
  • Orioles
  • Gray Catbirds
  • Cedar Waxwings
  • Tanagers
  • Wrens
  • Northern Mockingbirds
  • Woodpeckers
  • Warblers

Find what birds are native to your area, if you want to attract certain species. Regardless, all types of birds need water to sustain themselves. 

Not all birdbaths are created equal. Some designs and materials are more suitable for being outdoors in varying temperatures. You want your birdbath to mimic nature's own birdbaths, like pools of water or puddles. 

Birds Need to Drink and Bathe

Birds need to drink water on a regular basis. Unfortunately for a lot of birds, the nearest source of water can be quite far away. Residential areas can be landscaped nicely but lack a water feature that provides birds with a place to drink and take a bath. 

There's not a lot of information about why birds need to bathe, but it is an essential part of their routine. The water does help with maintaining a bird's feather condition. Their feathers molt only once or twice a year, so birds need to keep them in tip-top shape between each molt. 

It's also thought that taking a bath can remove mites from a bird. These mites can damage their feathers. The water also redistributes the protective oils of the feathers. 

Feathers are vital to a bird's existence. They provide waterproofing, insulation, and, of course, enable them to fly. A nice bath helps birds in countless ways, including improved flight agility and ability to escape from predators. 

Is Tap Water Okay for Birds?

Birds typically drink out of puddles, streams, or other freshwater sources. This water could potentially be high in bacteria. By providing them with clean water, you're keeping birds healthy and hydrated. 

How Do I Figure Out What Birdbath to Get?

There are a lot of different designs, shapes, and materials to choose from when selecting a birdbath. Choosing which birdbath you like depends on your personal preference.

Materials

Birdbaths don't come in one standard shape and size. The usual materials for birdbaths are:

  • Plastic
  • Concrete
  • Glazed Ceramic Pottery
  • Glass
  • Bronze, Copper, or Cast Iron 

Plastic and concrete birdbath basins are easy to clean and are generally durable. However, glazed concrete and ceramic pottery tends to crack if the temperature gets below freezing. Without included aggregates or enhanced texture, they sometimes can be too slippery for birds or the bowl too deep. 

You want the bowl of the birdbath to be shallow and gently sloping down. Birds like to wade into the water, so you don't want something that's so deep the water goes over their heads. 

Glazed pottery or copper are two other great options as they stay cleaner. Dirt and grime don't stick as easily to the surface. Copper tends to resist algae more than some of the other materials. The biostatic properties of copper make bacteria, including algae, less likely to grow. Keep in mind that a copper birdbath won't eliminate the presence of algae entirely, and the basin will still need to be cleaned.  

In general, metal birdbaths heat up quickly in summer, and in extreme cases may cause burns as the birds come in to perch on the edge.  Warm water also fosters faster algal and bacterial growth, requiring more frequent cleaning.   

What Color Should I Choose?

Depending upon your yard's decor, you can choose a birdbath that's any color. Each species of bird is attracted to different colors as a source of food. You can choose a birdbath that reflects those colors as well. 

Here are some colors you can choose and what birds they'll attract:

  • Red/Pink: Hummingbirds
  • Yellow: Warblers, Hummingbirds, Goldfinches
  • Blue: Blue Jays, Bluebirds
  • Orange: Orioles, Hummingbirds

A color to avoid is white. White plumage is a warning color and can scare birds away when used in your garden. 

What Style Should I Choose?

There are countless styles and designs when looking for a backyard birdbath. Don't know how to choose? Below are the various options you can choose from, along with the pros and cons. 

Deck-Mounted

The way a birdbath mounts to your deck varies from deck to deck. Some screw into the deck itself while others will clamp to the railing.

These types of birdbaths are great for those who don't have a lot of outdoor space or live in an apartment. Having a birdbath installed on your deck or balcony enables you to see local wildlife, since the birdbath isn't far out in your yard. 

Having a birdbath closer to your house lets you see when they need to be refilled and cleaned. The basin of the deck-mounted birdbath usually pops out easily, so you can take it inside to clean. 

Pros

  • Perfect for apartments or small spaces
  • A creative way to take up empty deck space
  • Bring wildlife closer to your house for birdwatching
  • Easier to clean and refill

Cons

  • Basin isn't big enough to hold a lot of water, so needs more frequent refilling and cleaning
  • Not many types of birds can use it, since it's smaller
  • Birds will poop on your balcony or deck
  • Will potentially blow over in high winds or storms
  • Could lead to increased window strikes if placed between 3 - 30 feet from windows

Classic Pedestal

This style of birdbath has a top basin that is heavy and wide. It's stabilized by a base underneath. Birds can easily use and recognize this style of birdbath. 

A concrete pedestal birdbath can hold up to high winds and storms. Keep in mind that since they're so heavy, it can make it hard for you to refill and clean. If you go with this birdbath, you typically wouldn't move it around once in place. 

Pros

  • Birds can easily recognize and use
  • Easy to install and stabilize
  • Holds up to windy weather
  • Gives birds an elevated escape advantage from predators like domestic cats

Cons

  • Heavier types can be hard to clean and refill
  • Not easy to move around once placed

Hanging Birdbath

Hanging birdbaths are much smaller than other types of birdbaths. They are suspended in the air, like a hanging plant basket. Hang them from a pole off your balcony. 

This style is also very easy to bring inside and clean, since they're small. Keep in mind that they'll need to be taken down when it's windy. 

Pros

  • Hangs on balcony or feeder poles
  • Ideal for apartments or small spaces
  • Easy to clean
  • Gives birds an elevated escape advantage from predators like domestic cats

Cons

  • Need to refill frequently, since the basin is small
  • Some types of birds won't like to use it, since it's less stable and moves around
  • Need to take it down during storms and wind

Low/Ground Dwelling

This is a bird's most favorite type of birdbath. It's either low to or directly on the ground. 

Since birds usually bathe in puddles, this style closely replicates their natural way of cleaning and drinking. You'll likely attract other types of wildlife, like rabbits, opossums, and raccoons. 

Pros

  • Appeals to birds natural behaviors and instincts 
  • Attracts all types of wildlife
  • Easy to move around

Cons

  • May attract wildlife you don't want in your yard
  • May need more frequent cleaning with multi-species use
  • Can be difficult to see the birds using it, if you place it around tall plants

How Can I Tell If a Birdbath is Functional?

When you're shopping for birdbaths, you need to weigh design and functionality over aesthetics. Just because a birdbath looks cool and has intricate designs doesn't mean it'll work for birds. There's no point in buying a nice-looking birdbath, if they won't want to come and use it. 

The way the bowl is designed is the most important thing when evaluating a birdbath. It will either attract or keep away birds. 

Different types of birds like different types of bowls. A bird with tall legs prefers deeper water. A bird with short legs needs shallow pools of water. 

The ideal bowl will be shallow close to the rim. It will then gradually go down to around 2 - 3 inches in depth in the middle. Shallow pools along the edges of the bowl also allows for use by pollinators and other insects.

You'll also want to consider if a birdbath is easy to clean. If your birdbath is too dirty and filled with stagnant water, birds won't want to use it. Having a dirty birdbath can also make birds sick. 

A birdbath that is easy to keep clean is essential to filling your yard with happy and healthy birds. 

Types of Birdbaths and Accessories

Now that you have a basic understanding of birdbaths, it's time for the fun part -- shopping! No matter the design of your yard, you're sure to find a style that fits right in. 

Ground Level Birdbath

This Erva ground-level birdbath is easy to clean, with replacement pans available in a variety of colors. The basin is made from BPA-free, USA-made plastic with steel legs. It's stable enough to sit on a deck or the ground.  For a ground-level bath with more traditional style and high durability, consider the fiber clay bird bowl with small base, Shenstone theatre bird bath and drinker, or echoes bird bath.   

Heated Birdbath

Who doesn't love hanging out in a hot tub? This heated birdbath is perfect for the colder months when water easily freezes and is a limited resource. Your winter birds will thank you for this warm oasis with frequent visits and entertaining antics.  This heated dish insert is compatible for use with all types of Erva bird bath frames as well.

Avian Mister with Rock Base

With an avian mister, you'll help attract hummingbirds. It sprays a fine mist over plant leaves and is typically installed high off the ground or inside a birdbath, away from predators. Watch as hummingbirds dart through the water or rub their bodies against wet leaves. 

Avian Dripper with Rock Base

Place a birdbath dripper over your birdbath. Birds will be drawn to the ripples forming on the surface of the water. The dripper uses only one pint of water per hour, turning your birdbath into the place to be. 

Solar Water Wiggler

This birdbath accessory comes with an agitator that creates continuous rippling in the water. This prevents mosquitoes from laying their eggs in the water. It doesn't require any electricity, so feel free to set it up anywhere in your yard. 

Mini Hanging Birdbath

If you'd like to hang a birdbath from a post or a tree, check out this mini hanging birdbath. It has a red cedar frame and a plastic pan. Enjoy watching birds bathe and drink from the comfort of your sofa. 

Classic Birdbath with Post

If you'd like to go the traditional route, a classic birdbath will do the trick. This birdbath has an untreated western red cedar frame around the basin. The basin is made from plastic that is clay-colored.  For areas with potential predators like domestic cats and high winds, the fiber clay bird bath with base is a stylish option.  The base can be weighted with sand or gravel for increased stability, and the basin twists off for easy cleaning.  

How to Clean a Birdbath

A birdbath with dirty and stagnant water is a hazard to your backyard wildlife. The contaminated water may harbor disease-causing bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. Those diseases can spread throughout all of the birds in the neighborhood. 

Mosquitos breed in stagnant water, making an unclean birdbath with week-old water a hazard for humans, too. 

There are a few things that can cause a birdbath to get dirty:

  • Seed hulls or seeds
  • Bird feces
  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Dirt
  • Dust
  • Feathers
  • Algae

The smaller your birdbath is and the more birds it attracts, the faster the water will get dirty. You'll also need to clean it more frequently. Being a good environmental steward means keeping your birdbath clean, and we suggest several ways to do so below. 

Ways to Minimize a Dirty Birdbath

There are a few things you can do to optimize the amount of time between cleanings. A dirty birdbath is bound to happen, but there are ways to minimize the need to clean it daily. 

Those steps include:

  • Dump out stagnant and dirty water when refilling instead of adding to it
  • Put your birdbath in the shade to minimize any algal growth and slow down water evaporation
  • Put the birdbath away from bird feeders, so seeds won't fall in
  • Place the birdbath in an area where it won't be clogged by leaves, grass clippings, and other yard debris and residues

Cleaning Without Scrubbing

It's easy to clean your birdbath without scrubbing, if you have the right tools. It takes around 30 minutes to do. This technique is most effective on plastic or concrete birdbaths. 

You'll need:

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Plastic trash bag
  • A hose that has pressure settings 

Directions 

First, empty out the birdbath. Even though the water may be filled with organic material, it's perfectly safe for watering plants or flowers. Be carefully emptying it, so you don't damage the birdbath. 

Turn your hose nozzle to the highest pressure setting. Rinse your birdbath for around 10-15 seconds to remove any stuck on feces, debris, or loose dirt. The basin might not look cleaner after this initial spray, but getting rid of the surface material will help you clean the birdbath more thoroughly. 

If your birdbath has a delicate surface, don't use the highest pressure setting. It may chip the surface finish or loosen a piece of mosaic. Use a lower pressure setting or wipe the birdbath with a sponge. 

Refill the birdbath's basin until it's nearly full. Make sure the birdbath is level. Add a cup of bleach to the water, making sure you don't spill it on any nearby grass or plants. 

Swirl the bleach into the water. Don't add more than 1.5 cups. After that, cover the basin with the trash bag. 

The trash bag helps keep birds out of your birdbath so they don't bathe or drink the bleach water. Let the water soak for around 10-15 minutes. Soaking it for longer will help the basin get cleaner. 

Remove the trash bag once the time is up. If there are any remnants of scum or algae, let the water soak for longer. Dilute and dump the wash water into an unused area of your yard away from feeders and spilled seed. 

Rinse the birdbath for one to two minutes to get rid of any bleach traces. Let it sun dry before adding more water. 

Cleaning with Scrubbing

Wearing rubber gloves is important when cleaning a birdbath to reduce your contact with contaminants in the water. For cleaning your birdbath with a scrub brush, you'll need a few things:

This option is great for those who don't like cleaning with bleach. Dump out the stagnant water from the birdbath. Use your hose sprayer to remove any of the large deposits of feces, seeds, or debris. 

Make a solution with one part vinegar and nine parts water. Add the solution to the basin. Scrub the lip, basin, and any other area of the birdbath where birds can perch, land, drink, or bathe. 

If your birdbath is very dirty, let the vinegar solution soak for a few minutes before scrubbing. Make sure that birds don't try to drink out of the birdbath during this time by standing guard or covering it. 

Dilute and dump out the solution in an unused area of your yard. Rinse out the basin until there is no foaming. Let the birdbath sun dry before adding more water. 

Birdbath Cleaning Tips

Clean your birdbath a few times a week, depending upon how often birds are using it. Increase how often you clean it during the summer months, since the heat creates a better environment for algae to grow. 

Use the high-pressure setting on your hose to rinse out your birdbath in between your cleanings. As time-consuming as it may be, clean your birdbath regularly. You can also add enzymes to the water to minimize algae growth. Use a wildlife-safe, enzyme-based bird bath protector to help prevent accumulation of sludge, stains, mineral deposits, and organic contaminants.

Consider getting a wildlife safe product to deter mosquitos from landing in the water of your birdbath. Since they're unable to land in the water, they won't be able to lay eggs. 

Keep your birdbath full of water to avoid any pollutants from concentrating in the smaller amounts of water. Like we mentioned before, don't add to water that's in your birdbath. Dump it out and add in fresh water each time.  For more details about how to fully disinfect your birdbaths and feeders, see Mondays with Martha #12

Other Ways to Attract Birds

Now that you've got a place for birds to bathe and drink, there are other things you can do to attract them to your yard. It's more than having bird feeders. Birds are easy to keep happy and create a wonderful sanctuary for you to enjoy. 

Some tips to attract birds are:

  • Plant local native plants, filling your garden with fruiting vines and shrubs and wildflowers
  • Add nest boxes and native trees and shrubs that provide shelter for birds
  • Set up multiple bird feeders and baths
  • Don't clean up dead branches and leave some leaves on the ground, as birds will be attracted to the insects living in them
  • Don't use pesticides
  • Provide protection from predators

Buy the Best Birdbath Today

As people spend more time at home, there's no better way to enjoy your yard and neighboring wildlife than creating a sanctuary for them to visit. Knowing what products to get and the best birdbath to buy will attract birds from all over to your neighborhood. 

For more tips on what to feed birds and how to care for your birdbaths, check out one of our other articles.
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