Premiere Garden Ornament: a Lovely Bird Bath

Ilona Erwin

Do You Have Room for a Bird Bath?

A bird bath is more than a garden ornament, it is an important accessory for the birds which visit your garden. They need access to water not only for drinking but for cooling off in the summer heat.

I don’t like to see yard ornaments overdone, but no matter how small the yard, there is always space for a birdbath. I have yet to see one that did not look tasteful when incorporated into the garden scene.

Besides their decorative qualities, this ornamental addition performs an important function, keeping the birdlife healthy. For it to perform well for aiding avian health, a few minor considerations ought to be given some thought.

 

Qualities of a Healthy Bird Bath

  • Depth of the bowl or indentation to hold water, with two inches of water in the center for most backyard birds. If your basin is deeper it should have an “island” to perch upon.
  • Nearby perches for viewing their surroundings and as refuge from predators (read that as your pet cat) are important. Many gardens have a birdbath placed out in the open yard, not too far from a tree.
  • Bird love the sound of splashing water and a small fountain can be a drawing card for the birds (and frogs, too).
Robin bathing

Robin happily bathing

Welcome Avian Friends

Essential elements are anything that invites birds to feel at home in the garden. I like all the bird attractions: bird baths, bird houses, bird feeders. The animation and sound they give the landscape, along with their helpful ways of diminishing the insect population make birds welcome in my garden.

One of the most exciting parts of gardening for me are the visits of my bird friends. I always have habitat planned for their benefit with garden ornaments that cater to their needs.

Bird Bath

Besides, what is more charming than the design of these garden ornaments? Bird baths come in so many styles and colors! I have several in my yard.

One I own is a generic type of bird bath that I remember in gardens everywhere when I was growing up, another is a large concrete petal shape. The sparkling reflection of sun rays glinting from the surface on a clear summer day  is reason enough to situate more than one bird bathing site in the landscaping plan.

Birdbath Angel

Angelic ornament Photo credit: SarahBelham

 

Benefits the Gardener, Too

The Sound of Moving Water

Years ago I put in a little pond with a shallow descending waterfall. The sound of the water was most relaxing, and I enjoyed decking out the pond with a few water plants, playing around arranging rocks, and then sitting and letting the trickle of the waterfall mesmerize me.

Oh! I almost dozed off thinking about it… but there were others that the hypnotic sound of water began to attract- birds came to hop about the rocks, and briefly dip into the small areas that were made more shallow with the addition of rocks.

Sound that Attracts Birds

This highlighted to me the fact that birds are attracted to moving water. They love it. And there are “tricklers” available to create that asset for a bird bath.

Cardinal Birdbath

From Plow and Hearth

Brightly Colorful or Natural?

Hawk bathing in water fountain

Oh Dear, Hawks like them, too

…and other tips.

Birds feel safer with a natural looking color and surface.

Give a bird cover near the bath.

Sloping edges are good.

A rock or pebbles on the bottom of the bath, for foot traction.

Outside My Window – Favorite Birdwatching Spot

I have many places in my large yard to put bird baths, but I created a “Look-Into Garden” centered with an old fashioned pottery birdbath right outside my home’s largest window.

Every day I look out there first thing in the morning, just to see the visitors splash around, having fun.

It is the robins, sparrows, and mourning doves that most take advantage of this part of the garden and its bath ornament. There are a resident pair of cardinals and other species which pass through, but they don’t like to hang around “the pool” as much. Still, many like to take a sip before rushing off for whatever it is that is so important in their day.

For some reason I always consider it good luck to see a special bird or watch their prolonged interactions. Maybe it is just the cheering effect of their songs on my mind!

Peepers Welcome

Put the bird bath on view- where you can watch the avian bathing beauties enjoying the water.

Cats in the Garden

Of course, it isn’t all peace and loveliness in our gardens. I have cats, and there have been more than one time that the broad and shallow top piece has been tipped to the ground.

There is little that can be done about the cat’s hunter instinct, but the placement of ornamental trees and shrubs in close proximity makes for a quick avian getaway and shelter.

A Heated Bath: a Welcome Luxury

Farm Innovators Model HBC-120 All Seasons Decorative Gray Stone Scalloped Heated Birdbath with Deck Mount, 120-WattEasily attaches to a railing, twist off top to aid dumping old water and cleaning, and hidden power cord.

Why Do Birdbaths Help Birds?

I don’t know about you, but I usually place the ornamental birdbath in the garden for my own benefit. They are a graceful, decorative addition to the garden. One of the best garden ornaments.

Yes, I like them better than mirror globes, fountains, or garden gnomes. Please understand if one of those are your personal favorites, but I would rather see a lovely birdbath of almost any design ornamenting the flower beds and green yards than any type of statuary or gizmo.

The reigning factor for including a birdbath above any other garden ornament, however, is the fact that this one will actually help your bird-friends.

Birds will benefit from a bath space for their water source for more than one reason. Take a look at why these are not just great looking additions to our garden spaces, but good for wildlife, too.

Attract and care for your feathered friends.

How Do I Help My Avian Friends? Attract and Nurture

Let’s Count the Ways

  1. Birds need to drink water
  2. Bathing helps birds to maintain their plumage, keeping feathers functional.
  3. Like us, they need to keep clean, bathing removes dirt and oils. This keeps birds healthy.

Solid and Dependable

I’ve had birdbaths as long as I have had a garden… and my grandmothers and mother before me, too. Most of us had the common pottery types, which are available in almost every garden center.

One big problem, is the fact that they crack and break during our frozen winters. Especially the bath portion for the two piece models.Every winter I store the tops in the garage.

Despite this cautionary care, my cats have been known to break them, in their eagerness to pounce on a bird. This is why I want my next birdbath to be just like the cast stone one featured here.

It would handle our cold climate weather better, be sturdy enough to withstand a “cat attack”, and its natural, rugged texture in a pleasing design is just the type of beautiful garden ornament I love.

If you get one, I will be so jealous.

Kay Berry Forever Remembered Forever Missed Personalized Fused Glass Stone Birdbath Besides great looks, this has the features recommended for a healthy birdbath:

  • shallow
  • made for outdoors
  • material is cast stone, to not crack or chip

Good Features

simple stone depression

A shallow rough surface like the concave carved stone hold water and will be safe.

Do you know the “no-no’s” to ensure a safe bath?

Characteristics of Best Baths, Problems to Avoid

Not all birdbaths are equally beneficial for birds. Possible problems?

  • Too Deep – According to the National Audubon Society, birds in the wild bathe in pebble strewn, quite shallow pools. One to two inch depths are ideal
  • Too Slippery – Glazed surfaces might be attractive to your eye, but not give a good grip to small birds trying to land safely in the bath.
  • Tough To Clean – You like clean water, and birds need their bathing areas to hold fresh clean water, too. Smooth surface that can be easily scrubbed on occasion will work well

Frugal Repurposing to Make Your Own

Must I Purchase or May I Improvise?

No, is the simple answer. We tend to like the artistic ornamental value of a pretty birdbath, but simple ones that are DIY from re-used materials work just as well.

  • Old saucer shaped snow sleds?
  • Frying pans?
  • Salad bowl with pruned tree branch legs?

Get creative and simply remember to use shallow, easy to clean, non-slippery vessels.

Some people like to make impressions in concrete, or reuse old trash can lids, others find terra cotta pot saucers on various types of pedestals (old tree stump, anyone?) to be an invitation to their local birds.

Where Do You Stand on Bird Baths?

Various Places in Your Spaces

Provide a number of water sources in different parts of your yard. This mimics nature, and helps various birds to enjoy their water source, without too much competition.

A good bird habitat for birds can include a shrubbery or mixed planting near to the bird bath, and check out the “Birds in the Garden” page for more bird-friendly ideas.

 

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.