For wild birds in the heat of summer, the water in your bird bath is is a haven—maybe even a lifesaver. It’s the #1 way you can support your backyard birds, all year round.
Why your backyard bird bath makes a difference
During a hot and dry season, other water sources may dry up or stagnate, so your freshly-filled, clean bird bath is critically important for the health and well-being of your backyard birds. Once they discover your water source, keep it going! Your visitors will return! With friends! And their babies!
How your bird bath can help birds year round
Wild birds need water for drinking and bathing all year round.
(Especially in winter! See our page about Wild Birds, Winter and Water.)
By maintaining your bird bath year round, you’ll have a seasonal front row seat to see wild birds at their best. From parents introducing their squeaky juveniles to ‘the local pool’, to weary and thirsty migrants stopping for a rest on their way through. This is backyard birding at its best.
To begin with, bird bath maintenance is about as simple as it gets! The Backyard Naturalist has a few special tips on how to make your bird bath attractive to wild birds and also be super-easy and convenient for you to maintain.
Bonus! A bird bath or water feature will give you more chances to see non-seed eaters in your backyard, like the American Robin and Eastern Bluebird in the video, but also Orioles, Thrushes, Vireos, Warblers, etc.
How to choose a bird bath.
Think shallow! Birds don’t swim! (Except for ducks, duh.) Two to three inches is perfect. If it’s deeper than 2″ add a flat rock or two to give birds safe choices.
More water, more birds! If there’s a traffic jam at your bird bath, add another one! They will LOVE it.
Where to place bird baths.
Make it easy on yourself. Make sure your garden hose is handy and reaches your bath for easy filling and rinsing.
Shade is Good, if Possible
Putting your bird bath in a shady spot will slow down evaporation and help keep the water cooler.
Protective cover for them
Location, location, location! If possible, place it where there is some protective cover nearby (but not too close). This gives birds a safe place to wait their turns to drink or bathe and it gives wet birds a safe place to preen after bathing. It’s also a place for all to flee if there is danger.
Visibility for you
Place your bird bath where it’s visible from your favorite window.
If your bird bath is easily viewed during your daily routine, not only will you have unlimited opportunities for bird watching, you’ll also make it easier to take care of:
- Maintenance. Your bird bath may need to be topped off more during hot weather or after a visit from a crowd of vigorous splashers!
- Monitoring for predators.
If there are cats roaming free in your neighborhood, keep bird baths out in the open away from places where cats can hide and attack. If you’re unable to keep your cats indoors, please put bells on their collars. That will give our beloved song birds a fair chance!
How to maintain a bird bath in summer.
Keep your bird bath clean. Rinsing and refresh often, usually daily, in the summer. Don’t wait until the water gets icky! If you see the water is discolored or there is algae, scrub with baking soda, lemon juice or white vinegar and then rinse well. Never add chemicals to the water!
Fill and Refresh
Keep your bird bath topped up by making things convenient for you. Keep your hose at the ready. Also, just to repeat, don’t wait for the water to get icky. It’s not healthy for your birds and it’s definitely making things a little less pleasant for yourself. Just a little bit of diligence and dedication will pay off!
Worried About Mosquitoes?
If you’re worried about mosquitoes, here are reasons why a well-maintained bird bath won’t breed mosquitoes:
- Birds eat mosquito larvae! No self respecting bird will leave this tasty treat behind.
- Mosquito larvae takes minimum 7-10 days to hatch. As a conscientious host, during that time you will have freshened the water several times.
- Mosquito larvae tubers will drown due to the frenzied, bathing activity of your guests and the timely refilling and freshening you do..
If after filling and freshening you’re still concerned about mosquitoes, add motion to your bird bath water with a water-wiggler, mister or dripper. Or, check out our bird bath fountains.
See our resource page Mosquitoes, Bird Baths and Your Backyard out more about mosquitoes (and where they are more likely to be breeding in your backyard than in your bird bath!).
The busier, the better!
The movement and sound of splashing water from your active guests can help attract more birds to your bath. In addition, you may want to take things to the next level with a fountain or mister.
Stop by the store and tell us about the birds you’re seeing in your area. We can help you find the best options for your backyard birds that are also the best options for your time and budget.
Supporting your backyard birds with nutritious food offered from clean feeders is the #2 way you can support your backyard birds during Spring and Summer.
Bird feeders are very active in summer. Not only do adults need to keep feeding themselves, but they now have babies to feed, too. Make it easier on them! By providing a consistent, reliable food source, you encourage birds to nest in your yard.
Nutritious summer foods to offer include black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, nyjer (thistle), suet, meal worms, jelly and fruit. Fruit eating birds, like Catbirds and Orioles, especially love the berries and orange halves. Please ask us for more information.
This is Hummingbird Season!
For Hummingbirds, fresh nectar is essential! Feeders should be emptied and rinsed (No soap!) two to three times a week—or sooner if the nectar looks cloudy—and refilled with fresh nectar. See our Hummingbird resource page for a recipe for nectar and more info about these amazing birds.
Keep a Clean Habitat
Clean feeders regularly! Check for mold and clumpy seed, particularly after lots of rain and humidity. Hot soapy water is great for seed feeders. Soak. Scrub. Dry well. Refill.
Keep shell debris at a minimum under your feeders, even if it doesn’t bother you. Accumulated shells carry mold that can be deadly to ground feeding birds. Shell-free sunflower seeds can be an excellent feeding option and it’s loved by all seed eaters.
Insect-Eaters and Pesticides
Remember our insect eaters! Birds feed their babies insects almost entirely while they are in the nest. Please reconsider the use of pesticides and “green lawn” chemicals—especially widespread spraying for mosquitoes—as these pesticides kill all the beneficial insects and caterpillars, too! Pesticides have decimated our butterfly populations.
A healthy population of beneficial insects is critical for a healthy backyard habitat.
Maintaining a bird house and gardening with native plants (no pesticides, please!) is the #3 way you can help support wild birds in your own backyard.
Clean out your bird houses/nest boxes after each brood. Cavity nesting mama birds have 2-3 broods a season and prefer a clean house for each brood! If you’d like to place bird houses/nesting boxes in your backyard, see our resource page Choosing, Placing and Maintaining Wild Bird houses.
Shelter and other nesting opportunities
Add some shade. Most birds nest in dense shrubbery, bushes and trees. While newly-planted trees and shrubs grow to maturity, vines, taller grasses and dense ground covers can also offer respite from heat and add nesting opportunity and privacy for backyard birds.
Keeping peace and quiet!
Don’t prune during nesting season. Shhh! Mama is busy in there with her second, or even third brood! So, please be aware and delay your heavy yard work until Fall, when possible. Another tip: Don’t deadhead the plants in your garden. Birds will do that task for you—especially our American Goldfinches!
Garden for wildlife
Want to take gardening for your habitat a step further? Read Douglas Tallamy’s book ‘Bringing Nature Home’ or visit the book’s companion website ‘Gardening for Life’.