Finding the Perfect Bird Bath

So you’ve decided to get a bird bath. You know where you’ll put it, and you’ve committed to keeping it clean. Now all you’ve got to decide is, which one to get? Here are a few tips to help you along on your journey to finding the perfect bird bath.

Placement of Your Bird Bath

The type of home you live in will have the most influence on what type of bird bath you can use — you wouldn’t want a hulking concrete fountain on a tiny apartment balcony, nor would you want a miniature pole-mounted bath at the far end of a huge suburban or country yard.

The best bird bath for you will be one you can place in a spot where you can easily see it, where junk such as seed hulls and dead leaves can’t easily fall into it, and where there’s quick refuge from predatory birds, cats and wildlife. Ideally it will be within easy reach of a hose too.

The best bird bath for birds will be one that has a thick rim for perching on and a nice rough bottom so their feet won’t slip. In nature, most birds use water sources at ground level. Some bird baths are made to put directly on the ground, but there’s always danger from predators to consider. Depending on where you place it, a ground level bird bath could also be a tripping hazard.

You’ll also want to consider how hard it would be to add accessories such as a dripper, fountain or heater, if you don’t buy a bird bath that has these features built in.

Safety First

Avoid Tipping

White tailed deer drinking from bird bath. Photo credit: Sheila Brown (Public domain)

Many stone/concrete pedestal-style bird baths are sold in two pieces. If you choose one of those, it’s important to be sure the basin is securely locked to a stable stand. This goes double if you have young children or rambunctious dogs. Even if you don’t it’s not at all uncommon for cats, raccoons, deer and even

bears to visit a bird bath. This simple precaution will prevent injuries and damage to the bird bath.

If you adore the look of some of the lightweight glass or metal bird baths that are available, make sure you have a way to keep it from tipping over. This will usually mean anchoring the base with stakes or piling rocks on top of it.

Avoid Drowning

Don’t go any deeper than two inches (5 cm) for your birdbath. Birds (and people and probably other things) can drown in deeper water. If you happen to fall in love with one that’s deeper than two inches, you can add pea gravel or river rocks to it to reduce the depth.

Style and Substance

Bird baths come in quite a wide range of materials whose properties may well influence your choice. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the most common bird bath materials:

Stone/Concrete (aka cast stone)

Whether it’s a bird bath that sits directly in or on the ground, or one that’s mounted on a base or pedestal, stone and concrete bird baths are more suitable for a yard than a balcony.

Advantages

  • Available in a wide range of looks from utilitarian slabs to hand carved Italian marble. Whether you want a basic grey concrete pedestal bird bath, a sleek and minimalist model or something that would look at home on a Renaissance estate, chances are you can find it stone or cast stone.
  • Durable and solid.
  • Real stone bird baths don’t need protection from freezing temperatures
  • Won’t blow over in heavy winds
  • Hard to steal.
  • Surface usually has enough texture for birds to get good footing.
  • Basins are usually large enough for birds to have a pool party in, so you may be able to attract more birds than with a smaller model.

Disadvantages

  • Basin-and-pedestal models may come in two pieces. If that’s the case, you’ll need to secure the basin somehow so kids and animals can’t knock it down.
  • Stone and concrete can be brittle. If they do tip over, the bowl may break.
  • Concrete/cast stone is porous and will require extra scrubbing to keep it free of bacteria.
  • Concrete/cast stone can absorb water, which expands and may cause cracking in freezing temperatures. You may need to bring a concrete bird bath indoors once the temperatures drop, unless you add a heater to keep water liquid.
  • Heavy bird baths can sink into soft ground over time, or may be destabilized by frost heaves in the ground underneath. Fortunately, Judith Adam at GardenMaking.com has some good ideas for coping with those problems.


Ceramic Bird Baths

As you can see from the main photo up top, ceramic birdbaths come in shapes, sizes and finishes limited only by the artist’s imagination!

Advantages

  • Huge selection of sizes, styles and colors to choose from— everything from sleek and classic to wild and funky.
  • Durable and solid
  • Easier to clean than porous concrete
  • Unlikely to be knocked down by heavy wind
  • More attractive than concrete

Disadvantages

  • Ceramics can be brittle and easily chipped. If it does tip over, the basin may break.
  • May be quite heavy.
  • Basin-and-pedestal models may come in two pieces that will need to be secured together to prevent accidents,
  • The glaze may be too slick for birds to get good footing on. (You may be able to address this by coating the rim and basin with clear silicon or caulk, then sprinkling fine sand on it.)
  • Even glazed ceramics usually have small unglazed areas that can absorb enough water to cause breakage in winter, so you may need to bring a ceramic bird bath inside when the temperatures drop.


Glass

Glass bird baths are usually absolutely gorgeous “art pieces” and often end up being kept indoors as decor items! They are a treat for the eyes, but they have some fairly big drawbacks as well:

  • The bowls often don’t survive shipping. If you buy one online, it may arrive in pieces. Amazon is quite good about replacing them, but it’s inconvenient for sure.
  • They are extremely lightweight compared to stone or ceramic, and usually have flimsy stands that require extra support to prevent tipping.
  • Often the stands are so short that predators have easy access for damaging both birds and basin.
  • Very light – needs secure anchoring to resist strong winds.
  • Glass bird baths are often three inches (7.6 cm) deep. Filling them with stones would obscure the lovely design.
  • Glass is a fairly slick surface which birds might find it hard to get a good footing on.
  • The thin rims on glass bird baths don’t provide a very good place to “perch”.
  • Glass bird baths are often rather small, which limits the number of birds that can use it at one time.
  • The lovely colors and designs are not usually painted on or embedded in the glass, but applied as a sort of plastic film that quickly loses color outdoors.
  • Glass is another material that gets very brittle in cold weather.

Because of these limitations, I don’t recommend a glass bird bath with a metal pedestal or stake for use in a yard.

On the other hand, if your bird bath will be hanging on a balcony or deck and not exposed to intense sunlight, this type of bird bath might be a good choice for you.


 

Resin/Plastic/Fiberglas

These materials can mimic stone and ceramic finishes fairly well, are light weight and hard to break, and won’t crack if water freezes in them.

Advantages

  • Great selection of sizes, styles and colors to choose from.
  • Durable and colorfast.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Lightweight for lower shipping costs.
  • Thicker pedestals can often be filled with water or sand for extra stability.
  • Most bird bath heaters are safe for this type of bird bath.
  • Won’t absorb water and crack in freezing weather.

Disadvantages

  • Skinny pedestals will need additional anchoring to resist kids, animals and high winds.
  • Some resin bird baths have a faux metal finish which is painted on. These finishes may be subject to fading or peeling over time.


Top Image: This gorgeous ceramic bird bath was made by AndreaHillPottery

See Also

Bird Bath Secrets: Attract More Birds with Water

Keeping Your Bird Bath Clean & Healthy

Adding Sound and Motion to Your Bird Bath

1 thought on “Finding the Perfect Bird Bath

  1. Thanks for your comprehensive page on the different types of bird baths. There are lots of excellent considerations here, such as depth. Whilst that seems obvious now I hadn’t considered that before. I do really like the glass ones but perhaps a little bit impractical for my purposes. I think a fibre glass one might do the trick. Thank you

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