Are you thinking about adding a bird bath to your landscape? If you enjoy bird watching, then a properly placed and maintained bird bath may be a good idea! Here are some simple tips to consider before taking that plunge.
Location: Where to place your birdbath is very important. Birds like to feel protected and that protection comes from cover in the form of trees, shrubs, and other structures. Look for a space at least 30 feet from windows and away from feeders, which keeps it cleaner. Position your bird bath in an open area but within 10 feet of a shrub or tree which will provide an escape route if needed.
Keeping your birdbath out of direct sunlight will help reduce the loss of water from evaporation. Finding a cooler, shadier spot will prevent the formation of algae as well as prevent insects from laying their eggs on the warmer water’s surface. If you don’t have a fully shaded area, then finding a place that has shade during the mid to late afternoon is the next best place.
Size: While some smaller bird baths are cute and add architectural interest to your landscape, larger bird baths with wider bowls are best to attract your fluffy feathered guests. The bowl doesn’t need to be very deep. Just one to two inches deep is enough for most songbirds. If your bird bath bowl is deeper than 2 inches, then add a large enough stone to the bath where the birds can stand. Also look for somewhat smooth surfaces but not overly smooth and slippery which could make it difficult for secure footing.
Maintenance: One of the best things you can do to attract more birds to your bird bath is to keep the water fresh. Include refreshing your bird bath water along with your regular yard watering routine.
Clean your bird bath every 1-3 days, depending on the amount of activity and use you observe at your bird bath. Simply dump the remaining water and refill with fresh water. If your bird bath bowl has a lot of textured surfaces, then use a scrub brush or pressurized water hose to remove built up debris. Regular dumping of the water will also help prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the water. Remember that birds can carry pathogens so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling bird baths, feeders, or nesting boxes. It’s also a good idea to keep a designated bird bath scrub brush that you clean well after each use. To keep your bird bath fresher, use one-part regular distilled vinegar in nine parts of fresh clean water for your rinse and scrub routine.
Some authorities suggest sterilizing your birdbath at least twice a year. For additional information on this, you can check out this website for in depth instructions: How To Clean a Bird Bath Correctly & Safely [Easy Method] (wildyards.com)
Another part of maintenance is preventing algae growth in your bird bath. Submerge a piece of copper tubing in the water which is not harmful to birds and will slow the growth of algae in the birdbath water. Placement, as suggested earlier, in a shaded or partly shaded area will further reduce algae growth.
Temperature regulation is another key aspect of bird bath maintenance. During colder months, adding a heater is a very good idea. Even something to keep the water moving will help slow the freezing process. During hotter seasons, add a block of ice to your bird bath water. The ice will float and melt as the day heats up. Birds will definitely enjoy the cool sip of water as well as a cool dip!
Hopefully these tips will help you and your yard birds have a successful and beautiful friendship!
Elizabeth Norris, Ellis County Master Gardener Intern