By Jill Morgan
Adding bird bath ideas to your plot will not only attract feathered visitors but boost your garden's style credentials too. From designs in simple stone and ceramic, to shallow reflection bowls and dramatic sculptural statements these features will instantly add structure, interest and character, that remains all year.
Perfect for the odd dash of extra color too, the options for bird bath bowls are varied. Choose from classic pedestal shapes, hanging saucers or stake bird baths that can be dotted in amongst flower borders or take centre stage if you're rewilding your garden. There’s a design to suit every taste and location.
But why is it so important to provide fresh water for garden birds? Simply put, they need it to drink and bathe. Birds get most of their liquid intake from food and by drinking. Some need it more than others, depending on their diet. Insect eating species such as thrushes and blackbirds get most of their water from their food, but seed feasting types, such as sparrows and tits need to supplement their dry feed. Water for bathing is also essential so birds can clean dirt from their feathers and preen, topping up the essential waterproofing oils that also keep them warm.
During hot dry weather and icy conditions, finding a clean and safe source of water can be particularly tricky, so it’s vital we help out. We spoke to designers and wildlife experts to get their top tips and with some thought and just a little creativity, these products can become treasured garden features and a hub of activity.
1. Make a statement with a modern design
Bird bath ideas can also be a sculptural feature for your garden. Seek out a design that enhances your chosen style and echoes the materials used elsewhere. Rough-hewn stone bowls work well for rustic garden ideas, but for more modern garden ideas you need a sleek, show-stealing piece.
This striking bird bath bowl features a smooth sandstone bowl held aloft on a tripod. Made from marine-grade stainless steel, the three angled legs make a sharp contrast to the stone’s subtle markings and allow plenty of room for planting underneath. The wide, open vessel also provides a mesmerizing mirror-like reflection of its surroundings.
2. Pop a bird bath amongst your plants
Simple, raised bird bath ideas can look truly stunning surrounded by a sea of gorgeous plants. Traditional stone designs are a perfect match for pretty cottage garden ideas. What’s more, by placing them in amongst garden borders, they also encourage our shyer feathered friends to bathe and drink too.
Species such as wrens, goldfinches and long-tailed tits are more likely to use a bird bath if they have the safety of leaf cover nearby, as well as an all-you-can-eat buffet of nutritious insects and seedheads too. Try planting teasels, miscanthus, globe and ornamental thistles and sunflowers for their super tasty seeds in autumn and winter. These are particularly irresistible to finches, dunnocks, chaffinches and blue tits.
3. Position your bird bath ideas as an elegant focal point
Circular birdbaths can make enchanting centerpieces, especially when their surroundings are designed around them. Their simple, pleasing shapes raised on a plinth or pedestal draws the eye without blocking the view of the garden beyond.
Appreciate their beauty from all sides by placing them in the centre of circular garden path ideas, surrounded by low hedges and curving borders. A formal but undeniably elegant design technique, this approach works well in both secluded courtyards and smaller garden ‘rooms’.
Increase their charm further by going for a multi-level fountain. The gentle spray and movement won’t deter braver garden visitors such as blackbirds, wood pigeons and starlings, and the constant, re-circulating movement will also help to keep the water clean.
4. Opt for contemporary simplicity
If you love minimal and industrial style, then go for bird bath ideas to match. Get creative and repurpose construction blocks, pipes and galvanized and zinc saucers to form your own, or look for beautifully designed bird bath bowls in modern materials – such as these concrete pieces.
'This bird bath looks great as a feature within a shingle garden or placed amongst architectural-style planting,' says the team at Green and Blue. 'Choose the number of rings you add to achieve the height that will best suit your garden.'
There's more inspiration for garden gravel ideas over in our feature.
5. Upcycle items for a touch of vintage charm
Treat the birds and give garden borders a dash of individual flair with a dainty teacup dip. Sure to be a talking point with visitors, they will add a pretty feature, dotted amongst the best cottage garden plants, such as Lysimachia, Canterbury Bells and aquilegia and provide smaller birds with a convenient drinking perch.
Small enough to fill with rainwater, the fine rims of china cups are handy and easy for tiny claws to grip. Seek out junk shop pieces and glue on to lengths of copper piping using a strong multi-purpose adhesive.
6. Hang a bird bath from a favorite tree
Trees aren't just a useful spot for your bird house design ideas, they can work equally well for your bird bath ideas too. Suspended bird baths are easy to move around the garden and perfect for adding extra interest to a favorite view or tree. Made from glazed ceramic, resin or powder-coated steel, the designs are usually hung from evenly spaced chains joined together, at the top, by a metal hook.
When first siting a new birdbath, the team at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) suggests to 'try placing it at different points around the garden to find the most popular site. The location of your garden and the type of vegetation immediately around it will determine what birds will visit your bird bath, and in what numbers.'
You can also try moving the bird bath bowl to where it is most beneficial for birds and gardeners too. Hung from a blossoming fruit tree in spring, small birds can feast on hungry aphids, while a branch above the veg patch in your raised garden bed ideas can help reduce slugs and snails during summer and early autumn.
7. Include a water bowl for birds and reflections
Shallow bowls with gently sloping sides are ideal for birds to drink and bathe in. Depending on their size and drinking habits, the different species can ease their way in, as deep as they dare, without any worries.
But besides catering for our favorite garden visitors, these curving bowls also offer spectacular, mirror-like reflections. These stunning water feature ideas are perfect for helping us unwind and enjoy the view of clouds overhead.
A great option for your sensory garden ideas, simply place one the ground, well away from shrubs and bushes where cats can hide, and where you can enjoy uninterrupted and ever-changing reflections.
8. Create space for a wildlife pond
Garden pond ideas, a bog garden or even the shallowest puddle surrounded by plants will quickly become the favored spot for drinking, bathing birds and a centre of wildlife activity.
Want a quick and and easy solution for how to build a garden pond? Sink a shallow plastic tub, pre-formed pond or sheet of PVC pond liner into the ground, well away from overhanging trees. Long grass will attract insects which, in turn, encourage birds. Plant it up to the pond’s edge so shyer birds can dart back under cover if startled.
If you're worried about cats lurking nearby, deter them by scattering prickly shrub clippings on the ground. Placing a branch across the water’s surface will provide a handy perch for birds to preen.
9. Go for a classic pedestal bird bath
You can’t beat a ceramic pedestal bird bath for adding a touch of timeless, classic style to your wildlife garden ideas. Available in many different colored glazes, including cream, green, blue and deep red they are a cheery feature to enjoy all year round.
Comprising of a separate base and bird bath bowl these products can be heavy to move around the garden, so assess the best position before setting up. Popular with birds of all sizes, it’s worth keeping these baths scrupulously clean to look after the visitors and prevent mould and slime from forming. Use a non-toxic product such as Ark Klens or Safe 4 Disinfectant and place a handful of gravel or a couple of pebbles in the dish for a non-slip perch.
10. Take joy from a self-filling bird bath
Want a low-maintenance option for your bird bath ideas? This design simply needs
a quick rain shower to fill up, and you'll get to marvel as the nifty roof channels raindrops into the dish below. Definitely one for fans of sleek architectural design, this angular design is made from powder-coated aluminium – so is completely rustproof – and is a one-stop snack bar for garden birds. Two porcelain dishes – one for seed – and a notch for holding a sturdy branch, are sure to make it the hub for the local bird population.
There are plenty more low-maintenance garden ideas over in our feature.
11. Use your bird bath ideas to create a sculptural focal point
What could be better for your bird bath ideas than a uniquely crafted piece that also encourages wildlife? Many blacksmiths, carpenters and stoneworkers use their skills to craft beautiful one-off items such as bird baths, giving gardeners the chance to savor and treasure a piece that’s truly personal to them and their garden design ideas.
Find a designer who’s work you love and contact them to discuss options. They will, usually, be very happy to advise on materials, shapes and construction techniques and are often keen to know more about the intended location too.
'We suggest positioning our bird bath in a sheltered but visible spot where bathing birds can be viewed with ease,' says the team at Chris Bose, who designed the stunning stainless-steel bird bath pictured above. 'Place a few pebbles in the dish as a water depth indicator for birds.'
12. Small space? Try a hanging bird bath
If outside space is tight and you're on the lookout for small garden ideas, go for eye-catching hanging bird bath ideas. Not only will this option free up valuable floor space, but it means that the avian action can easily be viewed from higher windows too.
Choose a bird bath bowl that mirrors your garden’s style. This large copper leaf design looks right at home amongst exotic planting and tropical garden ideas. Birds can easily perch and drink from the gently curving shape and the raised ribs provide extra grip too.
13. Encourage insects and birds with a pond in a pot
Why not switch up your garden planter ideas and create your own mini wild watering hole by planting a pond in a pot instead? The chance to drink, bathe and snack on insects will prove irresistible to birds and provide plenty of entertainment.
Any large, watertight container can be used for bird bath ideas, but pot pond kits come with everything you need – plants, support grid and all. Position where you can see the action, from inside the house or an outdoor seating area but avoid overhanging branches where falling leaves can clog the water.
How do you make a simple bird bath?
The simplest watertight container can be used for your bird bath ideas. The best designs have shallow curving sides, so smaller birds can find their ideal depth without the danger of falling in. An upturned dustbin lid settled into gravel, perched on a few pebbles or bricks will work well. Place a handful of gravel and a pebble or two in the centre, before filling with water. This will provide extra grip and a handy drinking and preening perch.
Plant saucers, dinner plates and baking trays are also good alternatives for bird bath ideas, but note the shallower the container, the more quickly water will evaporate during hot weather and need replacing.
How do you clean a bird bath?
Cleaning out your bird bath ideas is vitally important as they can easily become dirty and centers for breeding bacteria which can then spread through local birds and wildlife. Follow these tips from the team at the RSPB to keep yours in tip top condition.
- Rinse out the bath daily (having the best garden hose to hand makes this easier) to remove any build-up of bird droppings, algae, dead leaves and other debris, and refill with clean water.
- Give the bath a thorough clean every week. Scrub well to remove algae and other dirt. You can use dilute household disinfectants or cleaners specifically formulated for bird baths, but make sure that you rinse the bath out thoroughly to remove any traces of chemicals.
- Since there is a small but real risk of infections like salmonella being transmitted to people, always clean the bird bath outdoors using separate utensils, wear gloves and wash your hands when finished.
How do you stop water in a bird bath from turning green?
Place your bird bath ideas in a shady position as this will help to reduce algae growth and slows the evaporation of the water. Change the water daily to prevent build-up of algae and be sure to scrub the inside of the bird bath thoroughly. A solar-powered pond aerator will help to keep water moving and any slime from forming.
How do you prevent a bird bath from icing over in winter?
Access to drinking water is vital for most garden birds, especially during winter when insects are scarce. If you want to know how to attract birds into your garden, it’s important to prevent bird baths from freezing during the colder months. The RSPB recommends trying these tips:
- Float a light ball on the water’s surface, the slightest breeze will move it along, breaking the ice and creating a small drinking hole.
- Place a sheet of plastic over the bird bath, any ice that forms can easily be lifted out and the bowl refilled with water.
- Pour hot water on the ice.
- Try a heated bird bath.
- Avoid using anti-freeze and chemicals in the water as this can prove poisonous.
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