Ornithologists will tell you that providing fresh water for birds is probably more important than providing food. It can attract a broader range of species to your garden and will certainly provide you with plenty of entertainment. Getting the position of your birdbath right will have a significant impact on how much use the birds make of it and how much enjoyment you get out of it. Read on for our guide to birdbath success!
Where to Place a BirdBath
Just like choosing where to place a bird table, there are two main areas to consider in placing your birdbath:
- What’s going to work best for the birds
- What’s going to work best for you
Let’s look at what’s going to be best for the birds first.
The Best Place for the Birds
Just like placing a bird table, for the birds to make the best use of your bath they need to feel safe and comfortable when drinking and bathing.
Visible From the Air
It may sound obvious, but the birds aren’t going to use your bath if they can’t see it. Be sure to place it somewhere where it is visible from the air.
Adding motion to the water with a mini fountain or bubble water feature can also help with visibility. The sparkle of moving water will catch the birds eyes and draw them to your bath.
It will also look pretty for you!
A Sunny Spot
In warmer climates, there may be an argument for placing a birdbath in part of full shade. But if the UK a sunny spot is probably best.
It rarely gets so hot here that the water will become uncomfortably warm. But it regularly gets cold enough for the water in your birdbath to freeze. Having the bath in a sunny spot will help to stop this happening.
If your garden has any particularly windy areas, it is best to avoid placing your birdbath there.
The birds won’t enjoy bathing so much in a howling gale. And if you have a light-weight birdbath, it is likely to blow over in an exposed position.
Your birdbath should be on or near the ground, as this mimics the ponds and streams birds would use in nature.
Ground-level bird baths can also become popular watering holes for other garden wildlife like your local hedgehogs.
“A cooling paddle” by Ian-S is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Having said that, you want to avoid making your bathing birds sitting ducks for the local cats and other predators.
Bathing birds like to have an all-round view of their surroundings so they can keep a watch out for predators
So try to make sure that the birdbath is a good six feet away from dense undergrowth, or anywhere that a cat or fox could lurk.
Clear Flight Path
Birds like to bathe somewhere that offers them a clear flight path for a quick escape from any predators. So try to avoid tall plants growing up around the birdbath. Or positioning the bath under overhanging branches.
Window strikes are a major cause of death amongst garden birds.
A bird disturbed from a bath or feeder may be less aware of where it is headed, making its risk of hitting a nearby window more likely.
So try to make sure your bath is at least six feet from any windows.
Whilst observing the six-foot “clear zone” around your birdbath, try to offer some perching posts just outside this area. Bushes, small trees or shrubs are fine. Or some people put a couple of posts into the ground, especially for this purpose.
The birds will use these to check out the bath. You will often see them queuing and waiting for their turn. They will also use them for drying off and preening after a bath. And perhaps most importantly, perching places offer a refuge from predators.
The Best Place For You
When it comes to choosing the right birdbath position for you, it’s all about ease of use and visibility.
Just like the birds, you need to be able to see your birdbath. Firstly because it’s going to provide you with hours of entertainment. And secondly, so you will notice when it’s full of poop, or leaves, or when a big fat pigeon has splashed all the water out.
Check that you can see it from your favourite chair in the garden or house, Or from the kitchen window.
Or maybe you don’t stop at one birdbath? They don’t need to be expensive or take up much space. You could easily have a few dotted around the garden in different vantage points.
We have one ancient pedestal bird bath that came from my grandma. This sits directly opposite the kitchen window and is great to watch as you wash up. We also have several other saucer baths dotted around the garden, which we can see from the patio and the bedrooms. These attract hedgehogs as well as birds. Even the dog seems to prefer a drink from them to his water bowl!
A Level Playing Field
Again, kind of obvious, but if you are putting water into a shallow dish and you want it to stay there, you will need a truly level surface.
If you are anything like me, the sight of the water sitting at an angle in the birdbath will push all of your OCD buttons daily.
So take some time at the outset to check the bath is properly level. Use a spirit level. If the angle is off, use some gravel or a paving slab to get it right.
If you have a heavy, stone or concrete bath, it’s worth bearing in mind that on a soft surface, like a flower bed or lawn, the bath will sink and tilt over time. So it may be better to place it on a hard surface from the start.
Your bath will get pretty messy from regular bird use, and you don’t want to add to the mess unnecessarily.
So try to avoid placing the bath close to plants and trees that drop leaves and flowers all the time.
Also, keep the bath at a distance from your bird feeders. This will help to avoid food in the bath, and give bathers and diners a bit of space!
You will be refilling and cleaning the bath pretty much daily. So having it near to an outside tap or water butt is a good idea.
Call me lazy, but I find that the baths that are furthest from my tap get the least attention.
Make Use of the Splashes
Once your bird table is in regular use, there will be quite a bit of water splashing on the surrounding ground.
So why not make use of it and plant some low-growing, moisture-loving plants around the bath? Something like mint could be a good option.
Just be sure the plants don’t grow up around the bath so that they obstruct the birds’ flight path or line of vision.
Once you have your birdbath in the perfect spot following some basic housekeeping rules will ensure that it offers your birds the ideal bathing and drinking environment.
- Keep the water level up. The ideal water level for a birdbath is between 1 and 2 inches. Much deeper than this will be too deep for many small birds. If your bath is deeper either part-fill it, or put some stones and pebbles in as “beaches” for the smaller birds.
- Keep the water fresh. Don’t let water sit in your bath for too long. Tip it out every couple of days and refill with fresh. Remember the birds are drinking here as well as bathing.
- Clean regularly. A well-used birdbath is likely to acquire feathers, poop and a slimy bottom quite regularly. This isn’t nice to look at and could spread diseases amongst the birds. Give it a good scrub out with a stiff brush at least once a week.
- Don’t Let it Freeze. Birds need water in the winter too. During the winter months check that your birdbath hasn’t frozen overnight. If it has, add a little hot water from the kettle. Never use salt to stop a birdbath freezing.
We hope you’ve found this article useful and interesting. Hopefully, you now have some ideas on where to put your birdbath for maximum enjoyment – for you and your birds.
Do you have questions or suggestions? We would love to hear them. Leave us a comment below.
And if you would like to learn more about garden birds have a browse through our garden bird library here.