AskDefine | Define birdbath

Dictionary Definition

birdbath n : an ornamental basin (usually in a garden) for birds to bathe in

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  1. A shallow basin, sometimes ornamental, filled with water for wild birds to drink from or bathe in.

Extensive Definition

A birdbath is an artificial puddle on a pedestal, created with a shallow, water- filled basin for bathing and drinking. A birdbath is a strong attraction for birds, and especially so during droughts. A very shallow, gradually deepening birdbath that is safe from cats, kept clean, and refreshed frequently with clean water to avoid contamination and mosquitoes can attract many different species of birds. Two inches of water in the center is all that is needed for most backyard birds because they do not submerge their bodies, only dipping their wings to splash water on their backs. Elevation on a pedestal is a common safety measure, providing a clear area around the birdbath that is free of hiding locations for predators. The birdbath will attract more birds if placed where a frightened bird can fly up easily to an overhanging limb or resting place if disturbed or attacked.

Design and construction

The typical and traditional birdbath is made of molded concrete formed in two pieces, the bowl and the pedestal. The bowl has an indentation or socket in the base which allows it to fit over the pedestal. The pedestal is typically about one meter tall. Both bowl and pedestal are decorated with reliefs. The bowl may have a shell type of motif or a woodland rocky spring motif. The pedestal usually incorporates one or more design features for aesthetic reasons. However, birds also are attracted to simpler designs, even a shallow plate or pie tin placed beneath a slowly dripping water outlet will welcome birds to a garden.
Birdbaths can be made with other types of materials including glass, metal, plastics, mosaic tile, or any other material that can weather well and hold water. In addition to the standard shallow container of standing water, there are also birdbaths which use a recirculating pump with filters, possibly coupled to a water supply with an automatic valve which will keep the birdbath water cleaner and requires less day-to-day care. Some use a solar powered pump to recirculate the water. Birds love the sound of running water, and therefore fountains can be the single most important thing that will attract birds to your garden
Birdbaths often are the central feature of an overall plan for a garden setting that includes natural nectar and food plants, shrubs, trees, and feeders. They often are placed where they may be viewed through the windows of a home, school, or office. They also may be placed on a small patio, deck, or terrace which is designed carefully to provide for the safety of the birds by eliminating access by predators. Deck mounted birdbaths are popular for people that do not have much yard space or live in a building with no yard, but they do have a balcony or deck. These types of birdbaths can be mounted directly to a deck rail, thereby eliminating any floor space use.

A place to stand

An important feature of a birdbath, which should be considered when designing one, is a place to perch. The bath should also be shallow enough to avoid the risk of birds drowning. This requirement may be fulfilled simply by making the bowl or container part shallow enough to allow birds to perch in the water. Another way is to add a number of clean stones inside the bowl to create places on which a bird might stand.

A safe feeling

Consideration should also be made to the issue of house cats and other predators, by placing the birdbath in a location where the birds can see the area around it, and where there are no hiding places for predators to lurk. Birds cannot fly well when their feathers are wet and heavy so it's best to allow 2 feet of open space on all sides of the bath so that the birds can see danger coming with enough time to escape.
This is one of the reasons birdbaths are customarily placed on pedestals in the middle of a lawn under overhanging limbs of a large tree to which the birds may fly quickly if threatened. In order to be able to see an approaching predator, birds should be able to see the clearing around it, over the edge of the birdbath as they bathe, therefore, a small diameter birdbath is better. Only very low and open foliage plants should be placed beneath a birdbath in order to avoid providing a hiding place for a predator.
If the bowl is too deep some birds will be afraid to enter the bath, staying at the edge and using it for drinking water only, being unable to see beyond the edge if entering the water or unwilling to enter water that is too deep for their safety.
Those birds that do not have binocular vision have poor depth perception, and can find a birdbath offputting if they're unable to judge the water's depth. You can help by leaning a stick or flat rock against the birdbath rim as a ramp to allow them gradual access into the water.


A birdbath requires regular maintenance. Maintenance may be as simple as a daily quick wash and refill, but it will depend on the birdbath materials. This is important because of the possible adverse health effects of birds drinking dirty water or water which may have become fouled with excrement. Fresh water is important. Concrete bird baths tend to become mossy and, therefore, slippery -- requiring an occasional scrubbing out with a stiff brush.

Welcoming larger birds

Larger birds, such as the Canada goose, also enjoy baths. They may be accommodated well by large agricultural sprinklers in a field of stubble. The sight of several hundred or thousand large geese "playing in the sprinklers" can be a moving experience. Providing such a place for migratory birds, especially in urban and suburban areas devoid of wetlands is an excellent way of encouraging them to frequent an area. As wetlands become more scarce, steps such as these can be important conservation practices.
birdbath in German: Vogeltränke
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