How To Get Birds To Use A Bird Bath (A 12-Tip Guide)


Installing a bird bath is one of the most effective ways of attracting birds to your yard.

The two main reasons they are so effective are that seed-eating birds need water for drinking, and all birds need to remove parasites and clean themselves by bathing.

The most important thing you need to do to attract birds to your bird bath is to ensure the water is clean and full.

In many cases, it may take weeks for birds to find and build the confidence to use your bird bath, so following the tips in this article should help birds use your bird bath sooner.

To make the most of your new bird bath, take note of the following tips.

1. Choose The Right Type Of Bird Bath

Bird baths are made of many materials, including concrete, clay, and plastic.

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A critical factor when choosing a bird bath is the color. It is vital to use a natural color as less natural colors may deter birds.

Concrete bird baths look like a good option with their natural, muted colors, but they can crack if the water freezes, and they are challenging to clean.

A lesser problem is that they are often too deep, but you can quickly solve that problem by adding rocks or gravel to the bottom.

Clay bird baths also have natural colors but can chip away when the water freezes.

The texture of the bird bath is also crucial. You should avoid using baths with smooth surfaces as they can be slippery when wet, and the birds can’t get the grip they need when bathing or drinking.

A safe option is to use a dull plastic bird bath. The advantage of plastic bird baths is that they don’t break when frozen and are easy to clean.

If it is smooth, add some gravel or rocks to the bottom to give the birds a safe place to perch.

2. Pick The Right Location

The location of the bird bath in your yard is critical. A shady or partly-shady area is the best place to install your bird bath.

Birds often visit bird baths to cool down, so the bath in the shade keeps the water cool and cools the birds off.

Placing the bird bath near a tree with exposed branches can be beneficial as they will have a place to perch and preen after being in the water.

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Keeping your bird bath out of direct sunlight will help maintain the water’s freshness, cleanliness, and coolness.

3. Keep It Low

Water is typically found on the ground in nature, so most birds prefer bird baths on the floor. Therefore, a bird bath on the ground is more likely to attract birds.

You could install an elevated bird bath as some birds may feel more comfortable and safe attending a raised bird bath.

4. Keep Pets Away

Pets such as cats and dogs can significantly impact the number of birds visiting your yard and your bird bath. Birds are almost always scared of your pets as they are seen as a threat by the birds.

Birds will only visit your bird bath if they deem the environment safe. If dogs and cats are around, they won’t move out from the protection of a nearby bush or tree to drink or bathe.

Keeping your pets on one side of your yard and placing the bird baths on the other is a good idea to keep your yard in harmony.

5. Provide Shelter

If you’ve ever watched birds bathing in a natural pool or puddle, you will notice that they frequently fly into a nearby bush for safety if they get a fright.

Therefore, providing the birds visiting your bird bath with places to take shelter if they feel threatened is essential. Without a place to hide, they may not visit your bird bath at all.

To provide shelter for the birds, place the bird bath near a thick shrub or tall tree so they can quickly escape when they feel threatened.

Remember to keep some open space between your bird bath and any closed shrubs to prevent predators from hiding close by and attacking without the birds noticing.

A nearby shrub or tree will keep the birds thinking they can use the bird bath safely.

6. Create Movement

Birds have an affinity for moving water – they can’t resist it. Any ripples or movement catches and reflects sunlight which gets birds’ attention in the surrounding area.

The sound of the movement also captures their attention. Birds are often inquisitive, so they will come and investigate.

You can simply place a sprinkler, dripper, or mister in the bird bath to create movement.

A fancier way of creating movement is to add a water fountain or pump to the bird bath.

7. Keep The Bird Bath Clean

While moving water is very important, it will only be effective if it is clean.

To keep the water safe and healthy for drinking and bathing, you need to replace it once daily or whenever it is too dirty.

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When birds bathe, they shake their feathers, preen, and poop in the bath. The water can quickly become dirty when there is a flurry of activity.

The birds often leave feathers and other unsanitary substances in the bath, which may get stuck to the bottom. The best practice to remove the debris is to scrub it with a brush and use soap if needed.

If your bath is under a leafy tree, leaves, insects, and other debris can fall into the bath, making it dirty even more quickly.

Leaving the water dirty will eventually deter birds as the water becomes infested with insect larvae (especially mosquitoes) and algae. That is why keeping the water clean and the bath full is essential.

8. Make Sure The Depth Is Correct

The depth of your bird bath is also fundamental. Try to make it reasonable for the size of the birds that you get in your yard.

It is good to keep the water depth between half an inch and one inch around the edges and make it a bit deeper in the middle – approximately two inches.

A maximum depth of around two inches or less is perfect for small birds like songbirds.

A deep and shallow section in the bath makes it appealing to small and larger birds.

9. Provide Perches

When birds bathe and drink, they like to stand on the side or in the bath.

In shallow bird baths, the birds may be happy to stand on the bottom and clean themselves.

If you have a deep bird bath, then you should add perching spots like rocks to the bottom of the bath. This is especially important for small birds that cannot reach the bottom of the bath.

The best practice is to place rocks around the sides and in the middle of the bird path to provide a comfortable place for the birds to preen themselves after splashing around in the bath.

If you live in an area that gets cold in winter, you can add branches and other small stones that keep the birds above the water but still allow them to drink without getting wet.

It is also a good idea to place gravel or small rocks at the bottom of your bird bath to give the birds a stable, grippy area to stand on while bathing. This is especially important if you use a plastic bath.

10. Stop The Water From Freezing

During cold winters, your bird bath may freeze, which will undoubtedly stop the birds from attending your bird bath.

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To prevent that, you can invest in a bird bath heater to maintain a suitable water temperature throughout winter and the rest of the year.

Other natural water sources will naturally freeze, making your liquid bird bath even more precious and attractive to the birds during winter.

11. Install Nest Boxes

Birds need a place to sleep, right? Then why not provide them with the perfect, comfortable place to make a home in your yard?

The nest boxes create a safe, warm environment for the birds, protecting them from the extreme climate and allowing them a place to roost at night.

Some species may use your nest box as a nesting site, which increases the chances of the birds staying in your yard all year round.

If the birds are using your nesting boxes, then there is a good chance they will use your bird bath.

12. Make A Bird-Friendly Environment

Birds love an excellent, safe environment to feed, nest, drink and bathe.

Consider planting indigenous plants that the birds feed on in your yard. This will increase their chances of visiting your yard and discovering your bird bath.

If you have the correct shrubs, the birds will also have shelter and want to stay in your yard.


Attracting birds to your bird bath is as simple as adding water and waiting for the birds to arrive.

Birds may take a while to find and use your bird bath, but following the steps in this article should ensure the birds find it more quickly and return frequently.

Once your bird bath is set up, a good range of interesting birds, such as kinglets, warblers, waxwings, tanagers, wrens, and buntings, amongst others, could be attracted.

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Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
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Tristan Silver

Tristan is a South African biologist, photographer, and birder. From a young age, he developed a passion for the outdoors, being taught basic biology and shown animals in their natural habitat. He picked up photography at age 11, and it led him into the world of birding and exploring. He has traveled throughout South Africa, documenting over 630 bird species. He is also interested in amphibians, reptiles, insects, and some plants. He uses photography to document his experiences and has had his photographs appear in African Birdlife magazine. Tristan holds an Advanced Scuba Diving qualification and has dived on many coral reefs. He completed his honours degree in Biological Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is also a writer, expressing and sharing his emotions from his experiences through his writing, combined with photographs.

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