Bird Bath Myths Debunked

European Robin at the Bird Bath
Peter Trimming/Flickr/CC by 2.0

Bird baths are a great way to attract birds to your yard. By understanding the facts about bird baths and other backyard water sources, it is possible to provide water to birds safely and easily, thereby attracting even more birds to enjoy.

  • 01 of 08

    MYTH: Only a Few Birds Use Bird Baths, so It's Not Worth Having One

    Cooper's Hawk at a Bird Bath

    Mike's Birds/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

    On the contrary, all birds need a clean water source not just for drinking, but also for bathing and preening. Many birds that are not interested in seed, suet, or nectar may still visit yards where a good bird bath or other backyard water source is available. Hawks, warblers, owls, hummingbirds, and many other types of birds will all take advantage of clean, fresh bird baths. Furthermore, other backyard wildlife such as squirrels, butterflies, and toads may also benefit from a fresh, clean water source.

  • 02 of 08

    MYTH: Good Quality Bird Baths Are Too Expensive

    Chipping Sparrow at a Bird Bath

    betancourt/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Bird baths come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges. More elaborate, decorative models can be expensive, that's true, but birds don't read price tags. Hot, thirsty birds don't mind what color, shape, or style the bath is so long as it is a good depth and filled with clean, fresh water. Even homemade DIY bird baths or simple, basic concrete bird baths can be good choices without spending a lot of money. A pie plate, plant saucer, or similar dish that is just lying around can even become a free bird bath.

  • 03 of 08

    MYTH: Bird Bath Fountains Are Too Awkward Because They Require Electricity

    American Robin at a Bird Bath Fountain

    gardener41/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

    While many fountain-style bird baths do require a nearby electrical outlet to keep the water circulating, there are also battery-operated designs or bath accessories that can keep the water moving without a cord. Adding a simple homemade dripper to the bath can be easy and effective, with no power source needed. Solar bird bath fountains or simple water wigglers are other easy options for moving water without needing an electrical outlet. A bird bath can also be positioned under leaves, downspouts, or other features that will naturally drip when it rains, creating an impromptu bird fountain without electricity.

  • 04 of 08

    MYTH: Heated Bird Baths Are Unsafe Because Wet Birds Freeze in the Winter

    Bird Bath Covered With Snow

    Michael Dolan/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    A heated bird bath keeps the water liquid for birds to drink so they don't need to use precious calories melting snow and ice to stay hydrated. A healthy bird will not immerse themselves or bathe when the air temperature is cold enough to freeze. Furthermore, birds are well insulated to survive in cold weather even if their feathers are damp. After all, birds get damp in the snow and freezing rain, but do not freeze because of it.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    MYTH: Deeper Baths Are Best for Birds Because They Provide More Water

    House Finch Drinking From a Bird Bath

    jeffreyw/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    The optimum depth of a bird bath is 1-3 inches deep. Water that is any deeper can be too awkward for even the largest backyard birds to bathe, and very small birds wouldn't be able to use the bath except at the very edge if the water level is high enough to reach. A very deep bath can also be hazardous, and birds may drown in a deep basin. Adding a shallow dish in the center of the bath or using rocks to adjust the depth can make a deeper bath more accessible to all backyard birds.

  • 06 of 08

    MYTH: Dirty Baths Are Okay Since Birds Drink From Dirty Puddles Anyway

    Dirty Bird Bath

    DAVID HOLT/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

    A dirty bird bath is hazardous to any birds that drink from it. Stagnant, contaminated water can harbor unhealthy concentrations of bacteria from feces or shed feathers that cause avian diseases. Mosquitoes that may carry other diseases dangerous to both humans and birds can also breed in a dirty bird bath. A filthy bath may also smell, which could attract predators and other unwelcome guests to the yard.

  • 07 of 08

    MYTH: Cleaning a Bird Bath Is Too Much Trouble Because It Requires Scrubbing

    Northern Cardinal in a Bird Bath

    Dawn Scranton/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    There are safe chemicals that can be added to a bird bath to keep it cleaner and to make regular cleaning easier. It is also possible to clean bird baths without any scrubbing at all if they are well maintained and cleaned frequently. Copper bird baths are also more resistant to algae and staining. Taking good care of a bird bath, including proper placement, means less frequent cleaning and less necessary scrubbing.

  • 08 of 08

    MYTH: A Bird Bath Is the Only Way to Offer Water to Backyard Birds

    Dark-Eyed Junco Bathing

    Nick Saunders/Flickr/Used With Permission

    While a bird bath is a quick, easy way to add a water feature to attract birds, there are other water sources that can be effective as well. Misters, drippers, fountains, creeks, waterfalls, and ponds are all great ways to add water to the yard. Standing water is adequate for the birds while moving water is better and flowing water is best. Birds will hear the noise of the water and come to investigate, meaning even more backyard birds to enjoy.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Axelson, R., 2021. Bathing Birds. VCA Hospitals.

  2. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. 2021. How to Make a Bird Bath.

  3. Progressive Animal Welfare Society. n.d. Providing Safe Food and Water for Birds.