Provide water for birds

bird on bird bath

If your garden looks thirsty, then the birds are thirsty too so help them out and provide a safe place for them to drink

Why do birds need a bath?

How many crackers can you eat without having a drink? Seed eaters, such as greenfinches, have dry meals and desperately need a drink to wash them down.

In fact, most small birds need to drink at least twice a day so being able to rely on a supply in your garden can make a big difference.

Birds need water for drinking and their feathery ablutions too - bathing and preening are essential to keep feathers in good condition.

Different types of birdbath

  • You can create a DIY bird bath from any water-tight shallow container. A rough bottom helps to stop the birds from slipping and you could put pebbles in the bottom to vary the depth. Stick in a ramp so other animals can get out if they fall in.
  • You can buy a bird bath to put into the ground or hang from a wall bracket but remember you’re choosing for the birds and not for your own tastes – they’ll be suspicious of bright colours so keep it natural.
  • Putting a container on a pedestal is great for safety. It gives birds a good view of slinking cats. A hanging model gives the same advantage.

Siting and maintenance

  • A shady spot is best as water dries up quickly in the sun.
  • A bath with a 360º view lets birds keep an eye out for predators. Put it close enough to trees or bushes so they can perch and get the all-clear before a dip, but far enough away so that cats can’t ambush them while they’re busy bathing.
  • Plant prickly shrubs near the bath. These deter cats from using them as cover.
  • Remember the birds are your guests – keep their baths topped up with clean, fresh water.
  • Give the bath a clean every couple of weeks to help keep the water clear and prevent the spread of disease. Use boiling water or buy specialist products that aren’t harmful to wildlife.
  • It might go against instinct but if the water freezes, cold water thaws ice more quickly than hot. If the bath is big enough, floating a tennis ball or apple helps to prevent ice from forming.

Put out a balcony bird bath

If you have a balcony, stick out a bird bath – you’ll have a great view. You can get hanging versions if you don’t have space for a container.

  • A small bath is big enough. Shallow is best and don’t forget, bright colours aren’t popular with birds. A seed tray or saucer for a plant pot are good options.
  • Hang the bath from a bracket – perfect if you have limited space. Take care to secure the bracket to keep visiting birds and the people below safe!
  • Make sure a free-standing bird bath isn’t too heavy for your balcony; stone or ceramic are best avoided.
  • Whatever type of container you use, a sloping edge or ramp help small birds and other animals get out if they fall in.

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