Make the perfect bird spa


Where would we be without a refreshing drink and a good shower (or bath, if that’s more your style), especially when the weather is scorchio? It would make life rather uncomfortable wouldn’t it? Now spare a thought for our feather friends. Imagine how tough it must be for birds in the heat of summer. They may still have chicks in the nest and territories to hold onto, so they can’t go wandering large distances looking for a suitable pool. Ideally, they need a reliable supply close at hand.

But drinking and bathing is a risky business if you’re a bird. When drinking, they have to bend down to sip, so they have to lower their guard each time they do. But it’s when they’re actually bathing that they are at most risk – their feathers are sodden with the water, and the sound of the splashing pricks up the ears of any nearby predator. Nevertheless, they have to do it, otherwise their feathers get dirty and dishevelled. Every bird needs its flying apparatus to be in tip-top condition, so making sure your water supply is in a safe place is really important.

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. To see a stream of bathing beauties drop by to quench their thirst or for a full-on splash-about is great fun.

What birds really want from a birdbath is something that is like a wide, shallow puddle. 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.


Step by step

  1. The simplest way to make a birdbath is to recycle an old upturned dustbin lid, one of those made from galvanised steel (so that it doesn’t rust).
  2. Find a suitable location in the garden where the birds will be safe. A good choice is on an open flat area, where the birds can dash into nearby thick bushes, but not so close that a cat could hide undercover and pounce. Make sure you can see it, too, so that you get to enjoy all the action!
  3. Rest the dustbin lid upside down on top of four bricks.
  4. If you want, you can put some washed shingle and a rock or two in the base of the birdbath to give the birds more grip.
  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 you will find that the water quickly becomes dirty. In summer, it is also likely to turn green or red with algae – don’t worry, this is to be expected, but is a sign to clean it out.

A sploosh with a hose and scrub with a brush will get rid of most of the dirt. You can also use a weak disinfectant solution or spray, but make sure you swill it thoroughly afterwards. Once in a while, I also like to empty the birdbath completely on a hot sunny day and allow it to bake dry for an hour or two to kill any pathogen.

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!