Best Bird Baths
Providing water in your garden is one of the easiest and quickest ways to encourage wildlife to visit. Alongside offering food, nesting opportunities and shelter, it is one of the four main fundamentals which birds, hedgehogs, and insects need to survive. As our ecologist, Chantal Brown says, "Wildlife really needs water at all points of the year. And your garden is a great place for them to come and look for this."
Why do birds need water?
Our garden birds need water for two reasons. The first is for drinking and the second is for bathing. Birds need water just like we do. They may look for it in puddles, ponds and streams or, if it's been raining, then the water droplets on the leaves in trees. They don't need to drink as much as mammals do, but if you feed a lot of bird seed in your garden, then this is quite a dry diet for them and they will really benefit from a drink two or three times a day.
It's especially beneficial to provide water during the hot summer months, but it's also useful during the winter when natural water sources may be frozen over. But you may also witness your bird bathing in your bird bath, just as they may do in puddles or streams as well. Bathing helps birds to maintain their feathers, the water loosens any dirt and makes it easier for them to preen themselves. Which in turns helps them to fly. Watch these blackbirds enjoying our Nature Oasis Bird Bath:
What am I looking for in a bird bath?
Bird baths need to be sturdy, easy to clean and preferably made from environmentally friendly materials. Your garden birds want to feel safe using them, so you don't want them toppling over or wobbling a lot. It's best to place them on a flat surface to keep them stable. Bird baths need to be cleaned regularly, so you don't want lots of indents where bacteria can collate, making it difficult to scrub them clean. And consider the material which has been used to make the bird bath. Firstly you want it to last a long time, so check whether it's been tested as frost resistant and durable. We try to use recycled, second life plastic or natural bamboo fibres, which is a sustainable fast growing material.
Where should I place my bird bath in the garden?
There are a few elements to consider here. Firstly you might want to think selfishly about the fact that you would like to be able to watch the birds using your new bird bath. So do place it within sight of your kitchen window for example.
Secondly, you don't want to place your bird bath close to a feeder, and make sure it is a good distance from any nesting sites or bird nest boxes you have put up in the garden. If you do have birds nesting, then they won't want to have a busy bird bath close by as they'll feel like they have to defend their nest site more than usual and mind abandon the nest.
Thirdly, you want the bath to be out in the open so that birds can both see it and see all around them when using it. This stops them worrying about predators like cats approaching whilst they are taking a drink. Give them a good vantage point from the bath so that they feel safe. But it's also a good idea to have a bush or a tree quite close, so that if they do feel a threat encroaching, then they can quickly fly off to safety.
What style of bird bath should I buy?
The style of bird bath you buy depends on which wildlife species you would like to encourage or attract into your garden, or the species which are already visiting and you want to make more welcome. If you are purely thinking about garden birds then there are two types to consider, a shallow or a deeper bath.
Birding expert Dan Rouse says it's all about the feet, "if a bird has flat feet they don't have long enough claws to be able to hold on safely. So if you have a lot of blackbirds or robins, even chaffinches around your garden, you need to have solid surfaces because their feet can't curl round enough. But then your little nimbly, climbing birds like coal tits, nuthatches, blue tits have got such strong feet that they can hold on to things.
"So if you are trying to tailor it to a certain species then have a look at their feet! Same with bird baths, smaller birds then to use shallower dishes because they will use it for bathing. Whereas the bigger ones will then use it for cleaning off mites and cleaning off food. So the jack daws still need to wash themselves so I tend to have two different baths with different water levels."
What if I don't want to buy a bird bath?
Providing any source of water no matter how big or small is great for wildlife. If you don't have a pond in your garden, then it's very easy to build a small one which can be used by wildlife to both drink and bathe. You'll need something like a tupperware container or an old washing up bowl. Sink it into the ground and fill it with a small log or some large stones, so that if any wildlife falls into it, it is able to get back out again. You could also try making your own bird bath. Our Ambassador Dan Rouse made one as a child from an old tyre, listen to her podcast where she talks about it.
Leaving out a saucer of water is great for hedgehogs during the spring and summer. You just need to think about the hedgehog being able to get its hind legs onto the ledge to enable it to take a drink. So it's best to place it somewhere that's easy for the hedgehog to get to - an open lawn for example, rather than along a wall or up any steps. Do remember to fill it each evening with fresh water to keep your garden hedgehogs happy and healthy.
How do I clean a bird bath?
It's really important to keep your bird baths clean, in a similar way to your bird feeders. Especially in the hot weather, the water can turn green with mould and that can lead to bacteria build up. But bird baths are very easy to clean. Simply empty away the water, give them a good scrub with a sponge and some hot soapy water (use an eco-friendly washing up liquid) and then refill with fresh, clean water and you're good to go. Our specially designed Hygiene Brush is great for giving them a proper good clean, and can be used on your bird feeders as well.
Top Five Bird Baths
So, if you want to invest in a new bird bath for your garden, or as a present for twitching family and friends, here's our pick of the top five bird baths available from Wildlife World, depending on who and what you want to attract and the style of your garden:
The Cherington Bird Bath for Blue Tits
The Cherington Bird Bath is one of our newer designs and it part of the Vintage Garden range. This has been specifically designed for smaller garden birds like blue tits and coal tits and will be used for drinking more than bathing due to the shallow pool. Made from all metal, it has a bronzed antique appearance, and looks very pretty in a flowerbed, planter, or lawn area. It just needs some soft ground in which to press it into using the spike at the bottom. The surrounding leaves and stems of the bath are elegant and make for excellent perches and landing spots before the birds take a drink.
The Echoes Bird Bath and Stand
The Echoes Bird Bath as a flat rim around the edge, so it's suitable for flat footed birds as well as your tits. This is a ceramic bird bath that's frost resistant and looks very classic in the garden. You can take advantage of our combined multi deal at the moment and save over 30% if you buy both the bird bath and the pedestal together.
The Oasis Wildlife Bath for Hedgehogs
The Oasis Wildlife Bath and the new Water is Life drinker are made not just for birds, but other wildlife as well including hedgehogs. That's because these are both low lying baths which are easily accessible to mammals. Hedgehogs can get their two front feet on the ledge, allowing them to take a drink during the spring and summer. Both are made from eco-friendly materials and are easy to clean.
The Shenstone for Pollinators and other Insects
The Shenstone is designed with pollinators like bees and butterflies in mind, as well a garden birds. As our ecologist, Chantal Brown says, "This drinker will not only be used by birds, but it will also be used by lots of different insects as well. That's because it has this unique step down into the drinker. So at these different levels it will suit different insects. So you can expect to see bees and butterflies coming to enjoy the water."
The Coniston for Bigger Garden Birds
This is a deeper water bath which gives bigger birds an opportunity to land and to clean their feathers at the same time. The Coniston is made with Claypas+ which is a combination of 30% recycled plastic content with 70% clay in composite form to give a light weight durable finish. The final look mimics an aged stone finish.