Bird bath: types, location & winter care


I am particularly interested in garden wildlife which is why I did my Master's degree with a focus on "animal ecology". I am convinced that beneficial insects and wildlife are a sustainable and effective alternative to many of the products we use on our plants. I am also a passionate birdwatcher and rarely go for a walk without my binoculars.

Favourite fruit: kiwi, apple and redcurrant
Favourite vegetables: tomatoes and green beans

Is it better to install a mounted or hanging bird bath? Where should you put your bird bath? And how can you make a bird bath frost-proof? Read on to find out.

Bird on edge of bird bath in garden
A bird bath is a welcome refreshment [Photo: SukHon/]

A bird bath is a welcome refreshment for many garden birds, especially in the summer months when puddles, streams and small ponds are few and far between in towns and cities.

Grain-eating bird species in particular, such as goldfinches, chaffinches and yellowhammers, need plenty of water to digest their dry food properly. Here are some useful tips on selecting a suitable bird bath, installing it and keeping it clean.

Garden bird baths: what to consider

Whether it is a fountain, ornate water bowl, stone basin or plain saucer – a bird bath needn’t be fancy to do the job. It is much more important is that it is clean. Stagnant water can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria and bird disease, especially at high temperatures, so try to change the water in your bird bath every day in summer and clean it regularly.

Note: If you notice sick birds in your garden with plumage damage, breathing problems or severe exhaustion, remove your bird bath, stop feeding them and report your observation to the RSPB or a vet. Read our article on sick and injured birds for further advice.

Robin on edge of stone bird bath
A bird bath should always be kept clean [Photo: Duncan Cook Drummond/]

Where to place the bird bath?

Place your bird bath a few metres away from a hedge, tree or other vegetation. This will provide your garden birds with a good view of the surroundings, and protect them from predators. They will also be able to flee to safety if they are in danger.

When installing a bird bath, make sure you can observe and enjoy the birds too! After all, bird baths not only support the local wild bird population, but offer a great opportunity to bird watch.

Hanging or stand-mounted bird bath?

Deciding between a suspended or mounted bird bath is a matter of taste. Hanging bird baths protect birds from cats and other predators grabbing them from above. Mounted bird baths need a long, thin and smooth stand, so that no paws can reach up from below. Hanging water dishes also tend to be easier to remove than their mounted counterparts.

Birdbath bowl suspended with rope
A hanging bird bath is often easier to remove and clean [Photo: Peppy Graphics/]

Why are birds not using your bird bath?

There are several reasons why wild birds may not use your bird bath. First, consider its location. When birds do not feel safe, they avoid even the most attractive bird baths. Make sure the birds have sufficient protection from predators and a good vantage point to view the surrounding area.

Also consider designing a wild garden. Native, wild herbs, insect-friendly flowers and dense vegetation can make your bird bath much more inviting.

Try placing bird food near the bath. This will attract many garden birds, who are sure to refresh themselves in the bird bath after a quick snack.

Bird baths in winter

Keeping your bird bath from freezing in winter is tricky. The simplest solution is to regularly add lukewarm water to the bird bath, which will keep it temporarily frost-free. For this, it makes sense to place the bird bath in a location that is easy to see and reach.

It is also possible to buy frost-proof bird feeders, which are placed on a heater. However, in mild temperatures, warm, stagnant water poses a risk of infection in winter. So, only heat the bath during periods of frost.

Water bowl or bird bath?

A water bowl also serves as a bird bath and vice versa; there is no real difference. Both are used by birds for drinking and bathing. Birds clean themselves by splashing in the water, cleaning their plumage and ridding themselves of pests; another reason to clean your bird bath regularly!

Blackbird splashing around in bird bath
Birds also like to bathe [Photo: scooperdigital/ Shutterstock]

Birds are not only a relaxing sight at the bird bath, but their song is a delight. Here is a run down of why birds chirp and why bird calls change during the course of the day and year.

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