While bird feeders are common in Britain’s gardens, bird baths are less so. Bird baths are a brilliant way of providing birds with a regular supply of clean water for both drinking and bathing. Bird baths become even more essential in the colder months when natural sources may be frozen or in the height of summer when water can be hard to come by.
Birds may not have sweat glands but they do lose water through respiration and in their droppings so most small birds will need to drink at least twice a day. And, bathing is essential for good feather maintenance. Birds dampen their feathers to loosen dirt and help with preening. During preening, birds will rearrange their feathers and spread oil from the preen gland to keep them waterproof. This process also traps a layer of air underneath the feathers to provide insulation and keep them warm.
You can make a bird bath yourself at home, but there are also a variety of bird baths available online for those who are looking for a more stylish or elaborate design.
Beyond erecting a bird bath in the garden, there are also a number of other ways to care for the birds in your garden. These include making a bird box, or buying one of our best bird tables or bird feeders to provide food in the colder months, too.
If you want to encourage more wildlife into your garden, take a look at our guides to the best bat boxes and best hedgehog houses you can buy. And to get a closer look, consider buying one of the best bird box cameras.
How to choose the best bird bath
When choosing a bird bath, the main consideration should be bird safety. The basin of the bird bath should have shallow, sloping sides and the surface should be rough or rippled to allow birds to find purchase easily.
To allow small birds to bathe, the water can’t be too deep. The RSPB suggests the water should be between 2.5cm and 10cm deep so that a variety of birds can use the bird bath safely.
The material from which the bird bath is made from can also have an impact. Stone bird baths are heavy making them more difficult to move, empty and clean but they will not fall over in strong winds.
Ceramic bird baths will also have some weight but less so than stone bird baths. In order to be frost resistant, ceramic bird baths are often high-fired.
The RSPB also now sells bird baths made from resin and a sustainable material called Polyboo, made from a combination of recycled plastic and bamboo fibres. Both of these are lightweight making them easier to clean, move and empty as needed. Consider buying a bird bath supplied with ground pegs if you are concern it may move in bad weather.
Types of bird bath
Bird baths come in a range of styles, including hanging, pedestal and ground bird baths.
One of the most common types of bird bath is the pedestal bird bath. This traditional style is typically popular because the stand allows for some flexibility on where it can be placed. The location of the bird bath is important if you want birds to feel safe enough to visit.
Birds need clear visibility while they bathe and drink with some cover from trees nearby to provide a place to escape to if needed. However, make sure any bushes or trees close to the bird bath can’t be used by predators, such as cats, to hide in.
Hanging bird baths have also become popular. These bird baths are made from a shallow dish that is hung from tree branches or poles using chains. Because of its simple design, a hanging bird bath can be much cheaper than pedestal bird baths.
Finally, a ground bird bath is a large, shallow basin that you place on the ground. Naturally, these are favoured by larger, ground birds such as pigeons. However, being on the ground does increase the risk of predators so many are now slightly raised to combat this.
How to stop water freezing in a bird bath
Making sure your bird bath is accessible in winter is essential as natural sources are often frozen over. It’s difficult to stop a bird bath from freezing but there are some techniques that the RSPB recommends trying.
There are a number of preventative measures you can take to stop the water fully freezing over including adding a light ball to the water. The ball should float and move with any breeze and therefore, keep a small section of water ice-free.
Lining the basin with a polythene sheet can also help. When the water freezes, you should then be able to lift out the sheet and remove any ice with it.
Finally, if your bird bath is already frozen, simply pour hot water on to melt the ice. Never add any chemicals including anti-freeze to the bird baths as this could damage the birds’ feathers or even poison them.
Are you a keen wildlife gardener? Why not take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch on Friday 28th to Sunday 30th January 2022?
Sadly, birdlife in the UK is struggling and according to the RSPB, our bird population has declined by a staggering 38 million over the last 50 years.
The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, is now in its 43rd year and a great way for wildlife enthusiasts to get involved as citizen scientists and keep an eye on visiting garden birds. Last year over a million people took part, which helped the RSPB create an accurate picture of how our feathered friends are getting on, as well as highlighting which species most need our help.
At this time of year birds are more likely to visit gardens in search of much-needed food and shelter, so by providing a selection of tasty treats, you’re not only doing your bit to sustain local bird life, but encouraging birds into your patch too. To make sure you’re ready for the weekend, check out our guides to the best nutritious feeds, best bird feeders, best bird tables and best bird baths.
How do I get involved with the Big Garden Birdwatch?
Fun for all the family, simply watch the birds in your garden or local green space for an hour at some point during the weekend, and count the species that land – not the ones that fly by. You then need to log your findings on the RSPB’s database. You can pre-register to take part, and if you can’t tell a sparrow from a starling, don’t worry, you can also sign up to receive a free guide to help you identify the different species.
Last year saw greenfinches move onto the UK Red List for at-risk species, for the first time. Thought to be affected by a disease called trichomonosis, the RSPB are keeping a close eye on chaffinches and house sparrows as it’s feared they might be susceptible to this disease, too. While this is concerning, you can help by regularly cleaning your bird feeders to reduce the spread of this parasite.
10 of the best bird baths
Browse our list of the best bird baths, below.
RSPB Bronze Effect Bird Bath
This bird bath is made from lightweight weatherproof resin with an attractive bronze finish. It has a shallow, 7cm dish to ensure the birds are safe and is supplied with ground pegs so it won’t tip over in strong winds.
Ceramic Shell Bird Bath
Approved by the RSPB, this ceramic bird bath has a modern shell design and a glazed finish in deep turquoise. The basin of the bath has a diameter of 40cm and a height of 9cm.
Natural Oasis Bird Bath and Drinker
Despite its natural stone look, this small bird bath is actually made from Polyboo, a mix of recycled plastic and bamboo fibres. It is frost-proof and has shallow steps to allow pollinators and insects access to the water.
Fallen Fruits Bird Bath
The Fallen Fruits Bird Bath is made from cast iron and comes with two decorative birds. The decorative bowl is designed to be wall mounted and can be used as a bird bath or feeder.
Wildlife World Echo Bird Bath
Made from fired ceramic this bird bath can be left out in the garden all year. It’s supplied with three sitting feet to raise it off the ground and the ripple design provides grip for visiting birds.
Tiefes Handicraft Bird Bath
This solid cast stone bird bath is weatherproof and frost resistant. The water depth is a shallow 2.5cm to ensure bird safety and at 4.5kg, it’s unlikely to budge in bad weather.
CJ Wildlife Endine Bird Bath
This small, shallow bird bath has two decorative birds and is finished in a blue glaze. Hang the bird bath at least two metres from cover to ensure the birds are at less risk of any surprise attacks from predators.
Foras Rainbow Bird Bath
The Foras Rainbow Bird Bath is crafted from natural sandstone and is frost resistant. The surface has been polished to enhance the natural ‘rainbow’ patterns in the grain and give it a sleek finish.
Aged Ceramic Bird Bath
This ceramic bird bath has an aged print detail with a small decorative bird. The dish is small and shallow so that small birds can drink and bathe safely.
Edwardian Bird Bath
Made in the UK, the Edwardian Bird Bath has a classic design and is crafted using local reconstituted stone and traditional methods. At 8cm deep, our experts would recommend adding a large stone to aid small birds and insects.
This Product Guide was last updated in January 2022 and we apologise if anything has changed in price or availability.