I have two birdbaths in my garden; a small basic one and a larger pedestal-style model that is much more ornate. They both see lots of activity; my birds will bathe anywhere that has clean water.
But, are birdbaths good for birds, or does cold water adversely affect their body temperature? Let’s take a closer look.
Watching a bird take a bath is fun, seeing them puffing up their feathers and splashing about. However, they are not bathing as we would; bird’s feathers are mostly waterproof, so washing them has little effect. They are removing any dirt or bugs from in between their feathers in readiness to preen.
Birds also need a fresh supply of drinking water; baths are an ideal place for them to rehydrate, especially songbirds.
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Are birdbaths good for birds?
Having somewhere to wash regularly contributes to the health and well being of our garden bird visitors.
Foraging for food is dirty business; they collect bugs, dust, and all manner of debris between their feathers. Anything that adds extra weight to a bird’s body affects its ability to fly; if a bird can’t fly, it can’t search for food, find shelter, or stay safe and warm.
Birds need to drink, not as much as you might think, but they still need to take water on board a couple of times a day.
Birds don’t have sweat glands, so they don’t naturally lose fluid this way. The only water they lose is through respiration and waste.
Birds with a strict diet of seeds need to drink more frequently; other birds also hydrate from the liquid in insects and berries.
What is preening?
Preening comes naturally to all birds; however, specific techniques that vary between species are taught by the elder birds.
It is the bird’s way of grooming and keeping their feathers in the ultimate condition.
It involves 2-stages; the first sees the bird arranging and rearranging their feathers into the optimum configuration.
The second step involves oil the bird generates in its uropygial (preen) gland. they use their beaks to spread the secretion across all their plumage to give it a waterproof coating that protects them and keeps body heat in.
Although this cleans out some dirt lodged close to their skin, using a birdbath before preening begins maintains the integrity of the feathers.
How to attract birds to use the birdbath in your garden
Seed eating birds are often looking for clean water to drink, especially the smaller species. Songbirds are intimidated by expanses of open water, so a birdbath is a perfect solution.
Before spending any money, consider the birds that most frequently visit your garden. Pigeons, magpies, and blackbirds need a larger bath than tits and finches. That being said, I recently watched with delight as at least a dozen sparrows queued on the branch of a tree, with 2, occasionally 3 birds simultaneously splashing around in the big bath.
- Place your birdbath in a shady spot to prevent the sun from evaporating the water.
- It should be in a relatively open position so that the birds can find it and also see any incoming threat from predators.
- Keep it clean; never use detergents; they’re harmful to the birds that use them for drinking water.
- Change the water at the first sign of algae; I do it as part of my evening watering routine.
- Check for ice in the winter. If you struggle to prevent ice from forming, consider buying a birdbath heater. It will keep the water at the optimum temperature without overheating.
Birdbaths are good for birds and essential for their health and existence.
Most birds only need to drink a couple of times a day; a birdbath is an ideal place to do so.
To ensure their aerodynamic abilities, birds need to clean between their feather regularly.
If you haven’t seen it happen, invest in a cheap birdbath.
You can almost see a smile on their faces as they frolic in the water.