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How to Get Birds to Use a Bird Bath – A Guide & 8 Simple Tips

If you are considering putting a birdbath in your yard then you have certainly already been thinking about where you are going to put it in your yard. If it’s your first, then you are wondering how to get birds to use a bird bath once you get it. According to this report from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the main key to attracting birds to your bird bath is to simply keep your bird bath full of clean water.

How to attract birds to a bird bath

birds at bird bath

There are several things you can do to help attract birds to your bird bath. They can to play a big role in whether or not birds find your birdbath attractive. A few of these are:

1. Keep it in the shade

Birds are using your bird bath not only to clean themselves off but also to cool off, keeping it in the shade keeps the water cooler.

2. Put some rocks in the bottom

Keeping some rocks in the bottom gives the birds something to stand on in the water when they are bathing, and can add variety in the depth of the water.

3. Make sure the water is the right depth

At the deepest part it should be no deeper than about 2 inches. To make the bath attractive to both smaller and larger birds, try to have a deeper section and a more shallow section. You can tilt your saucer or add rocks to one side to vary the depth. 

4. Keep your bird bath clean

A bird bath can become filthy pretty quickly with poop, dead bugs, and any other random things that make their way in. You need to routinely rinse off the bath and use soap if necessary. Fill with new water at least once a week, more often in the summer. 

5. Keep it lower to the ground

Most birds prefer a bird bath close to ground level like they would find naturally.

6. Pick the right size

A larger bird bath will attract more birds, but require more maintenance.

7. Keep the water from freezing

Investing in a good bird bath heater can keep your water temp regulated all year. Below are a couple of recommendations on Amazon.

8. Add a fountain

Birds like moving water and find it more tempting to visit. You can add a cool fountain but any water water pump that will add some motion will do. You can also search up fountain alternatives such as a dripper or water wiggler

Where you should put a bird bath

bird bath by fence

The best place to put your bird bath is in a shady or partially-shady area of your yard. Also be sure that birds feel safe when coming in for a dip. In order to assure this, put it in a spot that is near cover such as trees or bushes. This will help them feel safe from predators.

Keeping your bird bath in the shade will also help to keep the water cooler. Because birds want to cool off in your bird bath, you don’t want it to feel like a hot tub because it’s been in direct sunlight all day.

The best material for a bird bath

You are probably used to seeing the traditional concrete bird baths that you find at home and garden stores. These can work just fine and look great in a backyard, but there are better alternatives for a few reasons.

  • Concrete bird baths can crack if they freeze
  • They are not the easiest to clean
  • They are often too deep

As I’ve touched on, birds prefer a bird bath low to the ground or even on ground level if possible. This is not always possible for different reasons and that’s understandable. A heavy duty plastic birdbath is easy to clean and will not break if the water freezes. I will put in a vote for this plastic bird bath on Amazon, it is already heated and can screw or clamp right to your deck.

How deep SHOULD a bird bath be

Keep your bird bath shallow and low to the ground. Think about a shallow bowl, which is what your standard concrete bird bath is. You will want it to be about .5 to 1 inch around the edge sloping down to about 2 inches or so max in the middle. Also consider adding some rocks or sand to the bottom in the middle to give the birds something to stand on as they are cleaning themselves.

Why birds use bird baths

Not only do birds bathe in bird baths, but they also drink from them. They will use them daily to remove tiny parasites from their feathers and keep them clean. They will then preen their feathers, or coat them with a special protective oil that their body produces. Check out our article on how to provide water for birds if you want more info.

As I mentioned, birds also drink from bird baths, typically about twice a day. Birds do not sweat like mammals do and do not require as much water. Insect eating birds will get the majority of their water from their food but birds that primarily eat the bird seed we provide them will need to find water sources regularly. That’s where bird baths come in.

Birds like water fountains

fountain bird bath

Birds are actually attracted to moving water so yes, birds do like water fountains. A water fountain is certainly not necessary in order to attract birds to your new bird bath, but it helps quite a bit. You could add something like this simple solar bird bath fountain on Amazon, or construct your own simple DIY solar bird bath with fountain following our instructions here

Additionally, mosquitos are attracted to still water, and still water seems to get dirtier faster. So if you are willing to spend a few more dollars on a decent fountain for your bird bath here are some of the pros:

  • Birds are attracted to moving water
  • The moving water prevents mosquitos from breeding in it
  • Bird baths with fountains can be cleaned less often
  • A solar bird bath fountain is inexpensive

Do birds need bird baths in the winter?

bird at bird bath in the snow

Absolutely birds need bird baths in the winter, just as much as they do the rest of the year. In the very cold months water can be harder to find and they greatly appreciate a bird bath with accessible water in it. Many birds get the majority of their water from insects, snow, puddles, or streams and creeks. If your backyard has a heated bird bath you can expect some activity all year, even in the winter. Learn more about how birds survive the winter.

How to keep your bird bath from freezing in cold weather

There are a few ways to keep your bird bath from freezing in the winter time. A heated bird bath is one option, a submersible bird bath de-icer is another.

Some types of bird baths are harder to winterize, like concrete or ceramic. If you leave water in them year round without taking the proper precautions, you risk them freezing and cracking or even completely breaking apart. That’s why I recommend a good plastic bird bath, go a step further and get a heated plastic one like the one above and you’re set all year.


In the end birds just want a full and clean bird bath, if you build it they will come. You should clean your bird bath out with the hose every couple of days or whenever you see that it needs it. If you notice any algae starting to form on the bottom or see dead bugs floating in it, that is a good indicator it’s time to clean. So while these are all great tips in order to attract birds to your bird bath, they are just tips to help out so don’t over think this one!


14 thoughts on “How to Get Birds to Use a Bird Bath – A Guide & 8 Simple Tips”

  1. My bird bath doesn’t get much sun because there are trees that cause shade most of the day. The solar bird fountain I bought doesn’t have enough energy to pump water into the sprinkler part, it just enough to agitate the water. Are there bird fountains for bird baths that that are battery powered?

    • Hi Jennifer – that’s frustrating! I know some of those solar fountains don’t have much juice when it gets shady. Unfortunately there aren’t any fountains that run completely on battery power that I am aware of. Depending on your set-up, here are some ideas;

      Birds Choice Granite Bubbler: this is a cord-based bubbler but very popular for bird baths. If you are able to run a cord out to the bath this might be a good option. You can use an outdoor extension cord if needed.

      Water Wiggler: this isn’t a fountain, but does make ripples in the water the birds may enjoy. It runs 100% on batteries.

      Solar Fountain with Battery backup: this is a solar fountain however the solar panel is separate from the fountain head. So if there is sun near the bird bath, you can put the panel out in the sun while the fountain in the bath is in the shade. I think the cord is about 9 feet. It also has a battery backup which means it stores some of the solar energy so that when it gets cloudy or shady it supposedly should keep the water moving a little more smoothly than the start-and-stop of the solar fountains that don’t store any power.

      Hope you can find something that works for you!

    • That’s very cute! The sound of the running water from fountains is a great attractant. I don’t know if you can adjust the amount of water that remains in the basin but I would suggest having that be just a little bit more full. It’s always hard to tell what is going to work in any given yard, but I think yours definitely has a good shot!

  2. Do you know what time of day they are more drawn to the baths. I’d like to get some footage of my bath with some birds. I’m in south west Florida. Was having a lot of activity 3 weeks ago, and now I don’t see much draw. But it could have been a morning vs afternoon discrepancy..

    Thank you.

    • That’s a good question Ally. I haven’t found a definitive answer to that, I think it’s very dependent. I read a study done in Britain where they logged bird bath activity by time of year and time of day. The data suggested that it was actually different for each species. Some preferred morning, some preferred afternoon, and usage sometimes went up and down as the seasons changed. Florida this time of year has a lot of migrants flying north, perhaps you caught some that were stopping for a rest before heading out of Florida. Bird baths can be difficult to establish as a yard “safe space” and I think most people see activity wax and wane pretty frequently. It also depends on things like how clean the bath is, how easy it is for birds to find water elsewhere, etc. Good luck and I’m sure they will be back soon. Let us know if you observe any patterns!

  3. I have a new heated bitdbeth. It is in the same place as the others have been, and I change water and clean it every other day. Many different birds used the other bath twice a day, year around. The new bird bath is black where the others have been a light grey color. The birds have not used this bath at all. It’s been in place for 10 days. Any ideas why they aren’t using it?

    • Hi Nikki – that’s a tricky one. Is the depth of the new bath different than the old one? If it’s a deeper bath maybe try not filling it all the way or adding some stones. Unfortunately, it might just be an issue of them being familiar and comfortable with the old one, and this one looks different enough that they are hesitating. You could experiment with adding a dripper or fountain or other feature to move the water around a bit and entice them. But maybe with enough time they will get used to seeing it there and start to come back on their own. Hope it works out!

  4. We added a bird bath that has a corded pump and led light that we leave on 24/7. It seems that not many birds are taking advantage of the water. Does the light scare away the birds?

    • It’s hard to say what the birds are being put off by. Might be worth removing the light for a few weeks to see if they come back. It’s possible the light reflects in the water in a way that looks strange to them. Or try adding something enticing like a solar fountain. It also happens sometimes that if you have had a birdbath for awhile and then change something, like location or adding features, they become a little suspicious and need to build up trust again. Being out in the open and bathing is a vulnerable time so they might be a little wary until they get used to your new setup.

  5. I have several feeders hanging from a roof and large tree attracting a large variety of birds; finches, grosbeaks, towees, hummers, soarroes, chickadees, etc. I attached a bath to the deck rail below the feeders. It seems like it should be perfect – shady, lots of nearby perches, but no bird will yet go into it. I change the water daily, it is shallow and has a rock in it for another perch. Does it just take awhile for birds to trust it?

    • It can certainly take birds awhile to get used to and feel safe about using a bath. It may be that some more time is all they need. If nothing is happening after a few more weeks maybe move it a little further away from the feeder. It’s possible the birds feel there is too much activity nearby.

  6. I bought Henri birdbath 4749f2. Just installed today. I put some “beach rocks” in it and I’m going to buy an artificial branch to put in it as well. No takers yet. Bought it for the birds to use. Hope they come.

  7. Thank you so much for your tips on birdbaths. I got six ideas and helpful hints to try for my birdbath. I am hopeful. I have seen finches land there a couple of times for a drink. We do have a creek that is not too far away…my husband says they probably go there for their water needs. We shall see.


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