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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Selecting a birdbath that birds will actually like

Cardinal in birdbath
Birds are normally enthusiastically attracted to birdbaths - even kinds of birds that will never show up at your feeders. Actually, birds NEED birdbaths to survive. Many vessels, however, are just "garden ornaments", and quickly become maintenance headaches that just take up space in your garden. A true birdbath goes beyond just an ability to hold water; it's welcoming and functional for birds.

Painted Bunting on dripper
Address these three criteria when selecting a birdbath that birds will be attracted to:
1. Depth. Since most birds in north Texas are afraid of deep water, a true birdbath should be no deeper than 2 or 2.5 inches. That way non-swimmer birds can stand on the bottom while bathing.
2. Material. Whatever the birdbath's made of shouldn't be so light that it blows over, or can be upset by a curious dog. Some metals and a few resins are good, but a good grade of concrete is best. A densely made concrete won't harbor algae, develop tiny cracks or soak up water. It can remain outside all year long, since birds need birdbaths as much in January as in July.
3. Ease of cleaning. The inside surface shouldn't have a bunch of intricate, flowery designs. These can hide bits of algae (algae will grow in any birdbath) which birds don't like.
     If West Nile Virus is a concern, simply put an inexpensive "mosquito dunk" in the water. It's not poisonous to birds or mammals, and can be reused.

     Place your birdbath within 3 to 5 feet of a dense shrub or small tree to leave an escape route if a predator (cat?) appears.
     The amount of sun isn't critical, but a half-day of direct sunlight is ideal. Never put one in the middle of an otherwise-empty lawn.  Add a dripper or mister to a birdbath to make it even more enticing.
     Above all, place the birdbath where you can see it. Like from a living room window. Then sit back, watch, and enjoy.