Bird Bath Myths Debunked

4 different species of birds perching on the edges of a birdbath-'can't we all just get along'
Bill Boch / Getty Images

Myths about bird baths lead to improper, unhealthy and unsafe bird baths that can be more dangerous than helpful to backyard birds. 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
    Photo © 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 backyards 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.

  • 02 of 08

    MYTH: Good Quality Bird Baths Are Too Expensive

    Chipping Sparrow at a Bird Bath
    Photo © betancourt/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Bird baths come in all shapes, size 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 bird baths or simple, basic concrete bird baths can be good choices without spending a lot of money.

  • 03 of 08

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

    American Robin at a Bird Bath Fountain
    Photo © 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.

  • 04 of 08

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

    Bird Bath Covered With Snow
    Photo © 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.

    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
    Photo © jeffreyw/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    The optimum depth of a bird bath is 1-3 inches deep. Water that is any deeper will 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. 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
    Photo © 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 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 backyard.

  • 07 of 08

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

    Northern Cardinal in a Bird Bath
    Photo © 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. 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
    Photo © Nick Saunders/Flickr/Used With Permission

    While a bird bath is a quick, easy way to add a water feature to attract backyard 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.