Make the perfect bird bath

Activity
Blue tit bathing in garden bird bath, County Durham
Under an hour
Spring Summer
Not too tricky

Just like us, birds love a refreshing drink and a good bath once in a while. But drinking and bathing is a risky business if you’re a bird. They have to lower their guard as they bend down to sip. They’re even more at risk when bathing, as their feathers are sodden with the water, and the sound of the splashing alerts nearby predators. Despite the danger, they must bathe or their feathers will get dirty and dishevelled. Providing the perfect birdbath can be one of the best things you can do for wildlife in the garden, and one of the most rewarding, too. What birds really want from a birdbath is a wide, safe and shallow puddle with a rock or two for perching on. That way, they won’t get out of their depth, there’s plenty of space to flap about, and every chance to do it in the company of others, which is always safer.

Blue tit bathing in garden bird bath, County Durham

Step-by-step guide

1

The simplest bird bath is a plant saucer (min. 30cm diameter) with a textured finish and a stone in the middle

2

Find a suitable location in the garden where the birds will be safe and you can see all the action.

A good choice is on an open flat area, where there is no long grass for a cat to hide and pounce.

3

Rest the plant saucer on top of four bricks.

Placing a wooden ramp from the saucer to the ground will allow hedgehogs to get in and out too.

4

Put a rock or two in the saucer for the birds to perch on.

5

Then just add water – it doesn’t matter if it is tap water or rainwater.

Keeping it clean

You will need to wash the birdbath out on a regular basis, as the water quickly becomes dirty. In summer, it might turn green or red with algae – this is to be expected, but is a sign to clean it out. Using a hose and a good scrub with a brush will get rid of most of the dirt. You can also use a weak disinfectant solution or spray, and be sure to rinse thoroughly. Leaving the birdbath to completely dry out occasionally will kill off any pathogens.

What to look for

Likely bathers include blackbirds, robins, house sparrows, blue tits, and great tits. The biggest splashers are starlings, who are so enthusiastic that water sprays everywhere.

It’s such a simple thing to offer, but so effective. And you’ll have happy – and clean – feathered friends as a result!