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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!

About Jesse

Jesse enjoys bird watching and feeding birds in his backyard, learning about the different species, and sharing his knowledge and experiences.