Summer can be hot, hot, hot, and some of our favorite summer activities involve water – relaxing by the pool, a day at the beach, running through sprinklers, playing with the hose, heading out to the lake, or just enjoying a cool glass of ice water. By providing a bird bath for wild birds in summer, we can give our feathered friends the same chance for a cool dip, a refreshing drink, or a silly splash.
Why Provide Water for Wild Birds?
While wild birds can and do use many shallow, natural water sources such as puddles, creeks, rivulets, and ponds for drinking and bathing, the hot days of summer can completely dry up many of those water sources just when birds need the water the most. The hottest part of summer can also be the most challenging time to find a reliable water source for drinking, bathing, preening, and keeping cool. When backyard birders provide a suitable bird bath, birds will quickly recognize the resource and will return again and again. This can be a great way to attract more birds to a summer backyard, and many species that won’t regularly visit birdfeeders or use birdhouses, such as warblers, thrashers, and flycatchers, will happily come to clean, fresh bird baths.
Choosing a Bird Bath
Birds are not picky about the price, style, or design of a bird bath, but they do have some essential requirements for a suitable water source. Ideally, a bird bath should be no more than 1-2 inches deep, or should at least provide both a shallow space and a deeper area to accommodate birds of different sizes. The bath should also have a lip around the edge where birds can easily perch, and the overall bath size should be large enough for vigorous splashing. Once those simple requirements are met, however, nearly any basin or dish can become a popular bird bath, including…
- Basic pie plates, upturned trash can lids, planter dishes, and similar shallow basins
- Pedestal-style baths with a broad basin balanced on a narrow column 2-3 feet high
- Hanging basins and waterers suspended from hooks, branches, or gutters
- Baths of any color with any design motif, including mosaics or hand-painted designs
- Basins of any material, including glass, metal, concrete, plastic, resin, and ceramic
- Designs featuring any fun accents, including frogs, dragonflies, wildlife, sports teams, etc.
- Baths that incorporate movement through fountains, streams, or drippers
To choose the best bird bath, find one that suits your style and budget and will fit well in your yard. While birds may not be picky about design, style, or colors, the more you like your bird bath the more likely you will be to keep it clean, well-maintained, and full of fresh water for visitors to enjoy.
Keeping Your Bird Bath Safe
No matter what type of bird bath you provide, it is essential to keep the bath safe and suitable for wild birds to use. Bird bath maintenance doesn’t have to be difficult, however, and a few basic considerations can ensure your bath is a cool, attractive refuge for wild birds.
- Position the bath so it is safely away from predators that might stalk unwary birds. Avoid putting bird baths in dense brush or very close to shrubbery where predators can hide, but be sure there are safe places nearby for bathing or drinking birds to retreat if they feel threatened.
- Clean the bath regularly with a weak bleach solution so it will not grow mold or fungus that can be threatening to birds. Water should be changed frequently as well, as bacteria, feces, dirt, debris, and insects can build up in standing water and make the water unsafe for wild birds.
- The bird bath will not be useful if it is not kept full. Refill the bath whenever it gets low (that’s a great opportunity to rinse it out and refresh the water), and take steps to keep it full even on the hottest days when shallow baths may dry out more quickly.
A bird bath is a great way to attract more species to your yard, and many birds that might be shy about visiting feeders will be much bolder and more active around a refreshing bird bath. With the right water source, you’ll happily enjoy visits from many different birds all summer long.