If you want warblers, sparrows, robins, and other feathered friends swooping into your yard, offer them fresh water. It’s simple. It’s inexpensive — especially with DIY bird baths using upcycled household items. And it’s definitely worthwhile. With a set-up that’s alluring to birds, you’ll be rewarded with a delightful reality show that’s truly wet and wild.
“It’s one of the easiest and least expensive things (to do) to attract birds for your own enjoyment,” says Robert Mulvihill, an ornithologist with National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Perhaps you’ll entice a parade of birds who perch on the rim, savoring a refreshing sip. Some might wade into the water, dunking, wriggling, and flapping. “They really soak themselves,” Mulvihill says.
DIY Bird Baths: What You Need
Use a shallow dish or pan, no more than two inches deep, such as the tray from a flower pot, recommends The National Audubon Society. A page on the organization’s website entitled, How to Make a Bird Bath, offers step-by-step instructions.
Mulvihill recommends avoiding materials with slick, slippery surfaces. Also, avoid light, flimsy containers, which would blow over easily in wind or when a bird lands. A hefty rock with a natural depression to hold water works nicely, he says.
Add a few rocks to provide extra perching surfaces within the pool of water — even if you’re using a store-bought bird bath. Mulvihill recommends flat, sloping rocks — partially sticking out of the water — to provide a gradual ramp so feathered friends can tip-toe to the level they prefer.
An internet search for DIY bird baths offers plenty of variations and ideas, such as a stone and garbage can lid version from wikiHow. For a more advanced DIY project, check out Instructables’ guidance on making your own solar-powered birdbath fountain.
Placement Is Important
Pick a place that’s visible from a window or from your patio so you can enjoy the show. But not so close to windows that birds might accidentally fly into the glass and injure themselves.
Also, think about the birds’ safety, especially from potential predators. The water should be within easy flying distance to trees and shrubbery, Mulvihill says. Birds often want to hang out and assess the scene before approaching the water. And, once in the water, they want to be able to zip back to the safety of trees or shrubs, if necessary.
Some birds are attracted to the appearance and sound of rippling water, Mulvihill says. That’s easily accomplished with a bird bath dripper, which is an accessory that you can purchase or make yourself.
For a homemade version, Mulvihill suggests poking a teeny pinhole in a plastic jug. Fill the jug with water and leave the cap loose to allow air to escape. Suspend the jug over the bird bath to achieve a steady dripping effect.
Agitators, such as solar-powered Water Wigglers, are another accessory that adds movement in the water. In addition to attracting birds, a bath with moving water may be less likely to double as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
To make your own agitator, Instructables has step-by-step instructions using wire hangers, an upcycled plastic container, and other materials.
Tips & Resources
Rinse and scrub your bird bath regularly.
Audubon recommends scrubbing with nine parts water, one part vinegar. “Skip the synthetic soaps and cleansers; they can strip the essential oils off of bird feathers. And make sure to refill the water every other day to keep it from bugging up,” the Audubon website states.
Other resources from Audubon: