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Bird Baths

Birds need water to drink as well as food to eat. In many cases, a birdbath or pool can attract a greater variety of birds than any food.

Where you locate your bird bath is important. Some fast fliers, like swifts and swallows, dip into water while flying. They need a pool of water in open terrain. Woodland birds, like thrushes and towhees, are cautious about coming into the open, and prefer water close to vegetation in which they can take cover. Most birds that visit gardens prefer a water source between these extremes: far enough from vegetation to prevent a surprise attack yet close enough to offer refuge. These birds will perch in a nearby tree, then come to the water source after determining that conditions are safe.

The edges of the basin should slope gradually and should be at least 12 inches in diameter (the ideal diameter is 24 to 36 inches, which should encourage communal bathing, since any bath or pool under 18 inches across usually attracts only one bird at a time). By all means, avoid moving, shiny parts that can alarm birds.

The classic style bird bath is a basin on a pedestal that is about 3 feet high. Be sure that the basin is firmly anchored to the pedestal. Other birdbaths are designed to hang by chains from a balcony, eave or wall bracket. Some small ones attach to a window with suction cups. Others are simple dishes that you lay on the ground, windowsill or deck.

If your birdbath is also a lawn ornament, be sure to choose the right material:

  • Avoid terra cotta or ceramic if you have cold winters. It tends to crack.
  • Concrete is more resistant to freezing and cracking than plain cement and the texture of concrete gives birds a good foothold.
  • Plastic and metal are lightweight, durable and unaffected by cold, but they must be textured to give the birds a firm grip; also, painted metal chips, flakes, and needs repainting.
  • Wood is difficult to clean and has a shorter useful life than other materials; however, birds really like wood and it can have a very appealing look.

Creating a small garden pool is another option. Set the basin of a concrete birdbath in the soil, or a plastic or fiberglass pool.

Since the sound of gently moving water is very attractive to birds, hang a dripping hose or a bucket with a hole in it above a birdbath. Mists and fine sprays also draw birds, and fountains and simple waterfalls are other decorative elements that birds like.

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