- South Carolina Birds Guide - November 23, 2022
- White-Tailed Hawk Guide (Geranoaetus albicaudatus) - November 15, 2022
- Zone-Tailed Hawk Guide (Buteo albonotatus) - October 30, 2022
Birdbaths are just about my favorite backyard item, and if I had acres of land, I would create destination spots designed with all different types of bird baths in multiple places. Birdbaths are an easy, inexpensive, and much-appreciated gift to make our feathered friends’ lives a bit easier every day. And that’s just for drinking! What about bathing? Do you think birds need to have baths every day? Or preen?
Birds must bathe and preen daily to keep their feathers clean and optimize their flight. Birdbaths provide a place to wade, stretch, and hop around, removing dirt and parasites from their feathers and re-shuffling them into working order. Birdbaths are important when birds need to quickly remove themselves from a predator’s reach.
I will break down the birdbath topic to make it manageable and easy to navigate for your personal preferences and yard needs. Birdbaths are a joy to put up, with excitement and anticipation overruling any other emotion.
Birdbath Bottom Line Chart
For those of you who want a fast, “just the facts, ma’am” breakdown of birdbath types, I have made a chart for you to compare the different types.
Types of Birdbaths
What is it?
Why it’s the Best!
|Ground Birdbath||Bowl-shaped water vessel placed directly on the ground or within six inches of the ground||
99% of birdbaths have a “bowl” that holds water for the birds, but how it is mounted makes it a pedestal, hanging birdbath, etc.
|A bowl-shaped water container that mounts to:
|Hard to remove dirty water unless it has a tilting function or a drain plug||
|Hanging Birdbath||Bowl-shaped water vessel with chains attached to the sides that connect to a hook. Can be hung from:
|Fountain Birdbath||A pedestal-style birdbath with a built-in motor pump that circulates water and can offer bubbling or “spout” action||
|Solar Powered Birdbath||
What is Your Birdbath Made of?
Along with the many style types of birdbaths available, the material types used in manufacturing birdbaths will dictate how, where, and when your birdbath is used and how long you can expect your birdbath to last.
First and foremost, the materials used in the construction of your birdbath will determine its weather resistance and durability. Harsh conditions, especially in the winter, can damage many birdbaths, with freezing and refreezing being the demise of many!
- Blistering heat and humidity will also compromise the finish and coloring of your birdbath and the integrity of ceramics and clay-based materials.
- The weight of ground-based, pedestal, and fountain birdbaths can be a problem if the wind gets feisty! Waking up to see a blown-over and cracked birdbath is no way to start the day! If your birdbath’s base is hollow, try filling it with sand or rocks to prevent it from toppling.
- My favorite materials are polyresin and double-glazed waterproofed ceramic for their heft, durability, and gorgeous looks!
I love resin birdbaths for their strength, durability, and limitless styles with ornamental designs. The price point depends upon the craftmanship, type of resin and quality.
Metal birdbaths are usually lightweight, and many feature a hammered indentation that is sleek and stylish. I am especially fond of metal for birdbaths because the wind, rain, and snow can’t destroy it! Nor can wagging tails break it!
If you live in southern climates (like I have for several years), you will want to place your metal birdbath in the shade, as suffocating triple-digit temperatures can scorch the tiny toes of birds when they land on the metal birdbath.
The weather is also a hazard in the winter because of freezing temperatures! Remember, as children, we stuck out our tongues to touch something metal and got stuck? (Okay, maybe you didn’t, but I did!) It’s the same for birds’ feet, so don’t use a metal birdbath if temperatures are below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ceramics, Terracotta, Pottery
These beautiful materials make earthy, nature-inspired birdbaths that are conversation-starting additions to your yard. This clay-based material must be double-glazed and weatherproofed to withstand temperatures in the 30-degree F range. I wouldn’t keep them out in freezing temperatures because it’s tempting fate to test their durability in those conditions.
Glass is used for mostly hanging birdbaths and is an elegant material conducive to hand painting. It’s best to use a one-half-inch thickness or more so it will be resistant to shattering.
Concrete is virtually unbreakable unless you try to break it. Concrete can withstand the harshest climates and still look great. It can be heavy to move or lift, however.
Having a cast stone birdbath is a true luxury, and resorts are more apt to have a large cast stone fountain birdbath on their property than your neighbor. This is a type of refined concrete made to resemble real cut stone. This lasts a lifetime and is very expensive.
Birdbath Types Explained
Ground Bird Baths (Bowl)
This type of birdbath is the easiest and simplest birdbath you can find. It can have amazing beauty, like the ceramic one below, or it can be very functional and durable in all weather. It is just a bowl-shaped object or another vessel that holds two inches of water that you can set directly on the ground or within 2 to 6 inches off the ground. This could even be a bowl from your house – make sure the sides aren’t too slippery, as birds need a rough texture to grip.
Don’t fill your birdbath more than two inches, as smaller birds may find it hard to get themselves out. The best way to ensure your birdbath is not too deep but is deep enough for larger birds is to have a gradually sloping bowl with a textured surface. If you have more than 2.5″ of water in the center (deepest part), you can add a rock that breaks the surface to provide a way out for tiny birds who wade too deeply.
Hanging Bird Baths
Hanging birdbaths consists of a bowl-shaped container with shallow sloping, textured sides (ideally) that has rope or chain attached to the sides leading up to one hook. You can hang these from trees and shepherd’s hooks or mount an extended arm from your railing or fence to hang it from.
Because birdbaths are designed to hold only a few inches of water, and the best designs have very shallow edges, it doesn’t take much wind to tip out most of a hanging birdbath’s water. The solution is to shorten the hanging chain so it doesn’t have as much wiggle room.
I learned that a problem with these is the wind. The wind can blow out all the water from this birdbath consistently some days! I had a glass flower-shaped hanging birdbath once. First, I refilled it constantly from the tipping, then during a stormy day, the wind smashed it against the metal hanging arm and cracked it. I was so mad!
Bowl Bird Baths
Bowl birdbaths are, as they sound, a bowl (or a form that can hold ample water) that is either placed on the ground, mounted to a deck, rail, or wall, or attached to a stake that goes into the ground. Bowl bird baths can also be hung from poles or trees, but those are covered in “Hanging Birdbaths,” and bowls that rest on the ground are covered above in “Ground Birdbaths.”
Bowl birdbaths are simple, easy to install, clean, and refill and come in beautiful designs. They are more inexpensive than pedestal, heated, fountain, or solar-powered birdbaths because of their basic structure and lack of technology. I love these because all you do is clamp them to the railing or push them into the ground, and you’re done! They can be placed anywhere and don’t take up much space. For cleaning, take a soapy sponge (no chemicals), wipe it out, rinse, and then fill the birdbath with fresh water!
Some bowl birdbaths have a wonderful “tilt” feature that allows you to slant the bowl to empty the water instead of either unclamping it or pulling it up from the ground. Or from doing what I used to, which is sopping up the remaining water with a rag!
Pedestal Bird Baths
Besides the bowl birdbath, the pedestal birdbath is the most frequently considered type. Traditional in design, with a tall base that is usually, but not always, thick and sturdy to hold the bowl of water atop it, these are the stone structures seen in gothic gardens and southern flower beds.
Heated Bird Baths
Heated Bird Bath Myth Buster: A heated bird bath is not like a heated pool; it does not warm the water enough to make it pleasurable to stick our hand in! It will still be icy cold, just not frozen.
Being from New England, this was my favorite type of birdbath for obvious reasons! Three seasons of winter (haha) makes it awfully hard for a bird to find a fresh, clean water supply. When the weather gives us wintry conditions, birds need to thaw ice and snow for drinking water, burning up needed energy. Colder temperatures are when our flying friends need to conserve their energy to stay warm, and our assistance is crucial during these times to ensure they can survive.
Investing in a heated bird bath will give you all the benefits of attracting diverse birds year-round to your yard and encourage more birds to nest in your birdhouses and eat at your feeders!
Heated bird baths have a motor that automatically turns on when the water reaches 33 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit and keeps the water thawed when the temps are below freezing. It is thermostatically controlled for automatic on/off. Refer to the manual for how cold it can get for your birdbath to still work. If you get a bitterly cold spell, you don’t want to happen upon a frozen birdbath!
This operational guarantee won’t be necessary if you live in a warmer climate that seldom sees the 20s and 30s (F) as the day’s high temperature.
Heated Bowl Bird Baths
Bowl-heated bird baths are just what they sound like; bowl bird baths that are heated. Using heated bowl bird baths is convenient in winter because they are more accessible and closer to you. That means you are more likely to fill/clean it, and you get an up close and personal view of your birds!
The only drawback of a heated bowl bird bath is that it can also be more accessible to cats and other intruders, depending on the placement and location. Like unheated bowl bird baths, you need to consider height, proximity to fences, trees, and roofs, and having an undisturbed location safe from snow piles and icicles.
- Ground- This is a great location to provide fresh water for birds and other wildlife during the winter. Ground bird baths work best when you can pick up the birdbath from the ground when you let your cat or dog outside, then put it back once your pet is inside. It gets harder to safeguard birds who drink/bathe from a ground bowl in the summer months.
- Deck/Rail Mounted- This is the option most people choose when using a heated bowl bird bath. It’s super easy to fill and clean, and you can stay toasty inside while having your birds come to you!
- Wall Mounted- Mounting a heated bowl bird bath to an outside wall gives you more flexibility with the height and location of your bird bath. You can place it higher than a railing for added safety and mount it under an overhang or porch roof for additional protection from the weather and unwanted guests. Don’t place it too close to the roof, as birds like to have a wide-open flight route. I like to attach mine to the wooden fence – about four to five feet off the ground.
- Stake/Pole/Post Mounted- This option is usually confined to the heated bowl bird baths attached to a stake for mounting. (Manufacturers use the word “post,” but it refers to a thin metal pole or stake, not a lantern post or a birdhouse post, as you would think.) The stake is driven into the ground with several thin pointed spikes. You should be able to step on the bottom and have it slide into the ground. Make sure you get one high enough to rise above the snow drifts!
Heated Pedestal Bird Baths
This is a free-standing heated bird bath with a pedestal or a carved post with legs at the bottom (sometimes, a metal stand will hold a bowl, and the description will call it a pedestal). This type of birdbath is usually three feet high or less, so placement in an open area is necessary to keep predators at a minimum. The benefit of having a true pedestal is that the cord can be hidden from sight inside it and come out on the ground. The electric cord tends to be unsightly with a stand or metal pole, sticking out from the bowl’s bottom like a sore thumb. You can get an extra long brown or black extension cord (UL listed for outside) and wrap it around the pole to keep it tidy looking and minimize visual disturbance.
Personally, I like true pedestal heated bird baths for their mobility and beautiful appearance. The hollow pedestal also makes storing the cord easier during warmer months.
Heated Bird Bath Costs of Electricity
Using a heated bird bath is not expensive, with the average cost being 10 cents a day or $3.00/month (if it runs 24 hours a day with a 50-watt motor). That means the temperature would have to be below 35 degrees F for the entire day. Heated bird baths will only use electricity when the motor runs (when the water temperature drops below 34 or 35 degrees). Once the water has increased in temperature (35-40 degrees F, depending upon the specifics of each heating unit), the motor will automatically shut off. When the thermostat senses the water is approaching the freezing mark again, it turns itself back on.
I prefer heated birdbaths powered by electricity for consistency of motor power and worry-free use – I have had mixed results from putting solar-powered heaters into an existing bird bath, but some people swear by them!
Fountain Bird Baths
These are my favorite bird baths because the bubbling water catches the eye and attracts birds who instinctively know the noise means water is nearby! This type of bird bath has a better chance of gathering a diversity of bird species in your yard, as does a heated fountain bird bath.
This type of birdbath is mostly pedestal-based or has a large free-form base with several tiers. Fountain bird baths do not need additional items to complete the bird bath; everything you need is in the package. It is either electric or solar-powered. My fountain has a free-floating electrically powered pump that’s easy to disconnect for cleaning or replacing. I replaced the pump that came with the fountain bird bath with a larger, more powerful one that has a stronger stream of water to make more noise! The birds seem to like it but stick to the top bird bath and leave the streaming water for the bottom bowl.
Electric-powered fountain bird baths are the most widely available and popular type of fountain bird bath. Electrically powered fountain bird baths have an attached water hose, plug, and pump with varying water pressure settings. There are thousands of styles, many materials, and loads of features to choose from. These are easy to maintain and provide worry-free operation whether it’s sunny or dark for days. You can place these in the shade or sun, and they will work effectively; however, you will need an extension cord unless you place it next to your outside power outlet.
A neat tip is to get garden ground stakes with rounded tops to secure your extension cord as it runs across your yard. This will keep the bird bath from getting tipped over if the cord pulls, and it is safer for pets and people to walk freely and not trip.
Rarely will a manufacturer have a stand-alone bird bath, include a free-floating separate solar-powered fountain mechanism, and call it a “fountain bird bath.” Those are cheaper quality and more prone to malfunction, break or not work at all. Opt for a fountain bird bath crafted with the fountain as part of the design; the parts will work together consistently.
This type of birdbath will either have a ground solar panel with a cord attached to the birdbath or a built-in solar panel. The built-in solar panel bird baths will be harder to position correctly for the sun to shine directly on the panel, but it will look neater with everything inside the bird bath.
The ground solar panel bird bath will have more options for placement since the actual bird bath won’t need to be in the sun, just the attached panel. The ground panel option will look less intact, with a trailing cord sticking to a black panel sticking up from the ground.
Solar Powered Bird Baths
These bird baths have a fountain or a lighting feature powered by the sun and solar energy. They are all-inclusive, meaning you don’t have to buy a separate solar-powered attachment for the bird bath.
With this type of bird bath, it is crucial that you live in an area that gets plenty of sunshine year-round, even in the colder months. I know in some areas, late fall, winter, and early spring are synonymous with dark, dreary, gloomy days that don’t include the sun! In those areas, this type of bird bath would not be the best choice because the solar panel will not get enough sunlight to power it.
The exception is solar-powered with battery backup included. Some manufacturers offer that, and if you have the time and patience to charge or change the batteries, it can be a viable option. The selection for the battery and solar-powered birdbaths is very limited, so you must be committed to that type of energy!
I have found that the picture below accurately represents most solar-powered birdbaths’ performance.
Use this as a general guide for all solar-powered birdbaths unless your birdbath’s description states otherwise.
Free Floating Heaters and Fountains for your Bird Bath
If you have a birdbath but don’t have one with a fountain or one that’s heated, you can always buy a separate free-floating heater or fountain and place it in your birdbath. The heaters are electric-powered, and the fountains are solar-powered. Be sure to read the descriptions of the heaters to determine how many watts it has. Generally, the colder the climate, the higher the wattage used. It runs from 50 to 150 watts for the birdbath size.
Important to note that there are higher wattages for de-icers that go in livestock troughs to keep the water in a liquid form, but they will burn through your birdbath water and can be dangerous in that small space.
For solar-powered fountain pieces, read the description to determine if there is a backup battery pack and if the face of the fountain is glass or plastic. Usually, glass can convert the sun’s energy more effectively, giving you more power.
Answer: Any bird bath that you will monitor daily, clean, and refill regularly. That is not a cop-out answer, but the truth. Once those requirements have been fulfilled, the best birdbath for attracting more birds to your yard would be a fountain birdbath with running water outside predators’ reach. Birds know the noises water makes because they must scout fresh water out daily. The more obvious you can make it that you have a clean water supply in your birdbath, the better the chances are that birds will come. Make sure there are trees or bushes 10-20 feet from the birdbath for a quick perching escape for your friends.
Answer: The short answer is yes. In the winter, birds need all their energy to stay warm and fly in the cold, and thawing ice and snow uses that precious energy. By providing fresh, liquid water for them, you are contributing to their sustainability. Plus, you get the added benefit of attracting more birds to your yard during winter, when sightings are more infrequent. If you already have a birdbath you can use year-round, you can buy an independent birdbath de-icer like this one at Amazon.
Answer: The short answer is yes. Birds can distinguish colors and know which ones mean flowers, grass, and trees! They are inherently drawn to bright colors like red, shiny blues, and yellows. However, you will attract just as many birds with a naturally colored birdbath, especially if there is running water from a bubbler or you have a heated birdbath in the winter.
Answer: The short answer is yes. Birds seek water as a vital source of life and for their daily bathing needs. Hunting for a water source is time-consuming and energy-draining for them. Birds love as many different water sources as they can find, and keeping clean, fresh water in a safe place will attract them back day after day!
Final Thoughts on Types of Birdbaths
Putting out birdfeeders seems like the way most people think of caring for the birds, but if you think of our need for water over food, you will get an idea of how it works with birds as well. We can stay alive longer without food than water, and I don’t know about you, but my thirst kicks in before my appetite does!
It’s one thing to watch birds feeding and then quite another experience to watch them drinking, bathing, preening, and quarreling with each other in the birdbath. It’s a gratifying peek into their rituals and communication styles, and you can sit in front of a fire and snap pics or movies of them from the comfort of your home! I hope you have narrowed down the type of birdbath that meets your needs so you can rack up birdie points while watching them!
You may also enjoy: