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Monday, June 01, 2009

Design the Best Birdbath

Say "birdbath" and most people will think of a concrete basin on a pedestal, the kind often sold in lawn and garden shops. Though these baths make nice lawn ornaments, they aren't the best setup for most birds. For one thing, they're often too deep. A good birdbath mimics shallow puddles, which are nature's birdbaths.

Find a Better Birdbath

When you're choosing a birdbath, look for one with a basin you can clean easily. It should also have a gentle slope to allow birds to wade into the water. You can make your own bath out of a garbage can lid, a saucer-type snow sled, or even an old frying pan. But if you'd rather buy one, look for a birdbath made of tough plastic that won't break if the water freezes or if your dog knocks it over.

Setting Up a Birdbath

Try to imitate a natural puddle when you're installing your birdbath. Birds seem to prefer baths that are at ground level, but if you are concerned about cats, raise the bath two or three feet off the ground. And put it where you'll have a good view of the birds. It's a good idea to put some sand in the bottom of the bath, to give the birds sure footing. If the path is on the ground, arrange a few branches or stones so birds can stand on them and drink without getting wet (this is especially important in the winter). Place your birdbath in the shade, near trees or shrubs if possible. A shady location slows evaporation and keeps the water fresh longer. Birds can't fly well when they're wet, so they're vulnerable to predators when they're bathing. With cover nearby, they can escape quickly if interrupted by a cat or a hawk—and they'll be more likely to venture into the water.

One of the best ways to make your birdbath more attractive is to provide some motion on the water's surface. Water dripping from an irrigation emitter or old bucket with a hole in the bottom catches the attention of birds.

Keep the Birdbath from Freezing

Put a light bulb in a flowerpot and set the water basin on top. The heat from the bulb will provide more than enough heat to keep the water from freezing.

Keep the Birdbath Full and Clean Always

These two practices will make your birdbath attractive to large numbers of birds.

Adapted from www.birds.cornell.edu