All About Ground Bird Baths

Add An Easy Ground Level Bath to Your Bird-Friendly Backyard

Bird bathing
A Green-tailed Towhee bathing in a backyard pond. Don Grall / Getty Images

Adding water to a bird-friendly backyard is a sure way to attract more birds, and there are many options for different types of bird baths. A simple ground bird bath can be one of the most useful and attractive choices, and it is easy to add one of these basic basins to your yard.

About Ground Baths

A ground bird bath is any low or ground-level basin that birds can easily access for drinking and bathing. While natural ponds, streams and puddles can serve as ideal water sources, a supplementary bath can be welcome in arid areas or during the hottest summer months when water is scarcer.

Ground bird baths come in a wide range of styles, materials, sizes, and shapes to suit any bird-friendly backyard. While basic circular or oval basins are perfectly suitable, more elaborate designs often look like large leaves, rock basins, logs, or sundials, and they may even incorporate bird bath fountains or drippers for extra sound and motion to attract birds. Some ground baths include heaters for winter months, and short legs or stands are also popular to elevate the bath a few inches, protecting the grass beneath it without raising it as high as a typical pedestal bird bath.

Pros and Cons of Ground Bird Baths

Like any bird bath design, there are both good and bad features to ground bird baths that should be considered before purchasing or installing one.

Pros of a ground bird bath

  • More closely mimics natural water sources such as ponds or puddles to attract birds
  • Very little risk of damage caused by tipping or falling
  • Easy to place nearly anywhere and can be just as easily moved if desired
  • More suitable for ground-feeding birds such as grouse, quail, towhees, thrashers, juncos and other species that may never investigate an elevated feature

Cons of a ground bird bath

  • May become buried in snow if a heater is not part of the design
  • More likely to become contaminated with leaf litter or other debris
  • Can be more difficult to see from a distance, depending on placement
  • May make birds more susceptible to predators, such as feral cats

While every yard is not suitable for a ground-level bath, birders who can work around the disadvantages of these styles will be amazed at how many birds appreciate the fresh water source.

Where to Buy Ground Baths

Specialized ground bird baths are easy to find at wild bird supply stores, nature stores and garden centers, particularly in the spring and summer. Online retailers who offer a wide range of ground-level designs to choose from include, Duncraft, SongbirdGarden.com, and BestNest.com.

The cost of a ground bath can range from $15 to more than $150, depending on the size and whether any heater or fountain elements are part of the design. Be sure to check for warranties, shipping information, and return policies before any purchase.

Easy Ground Bird Bath Projects

Backyard birders who want to make bird baths can create a number of ground designs quickly and easily. Popular options include:

  • Simple Basin: Any shallow basin can be filled with fresh water and placed on the ground for an easy, instant bird bath. Ideal choices include a pie plate, bowl, terra cotta saucer, or any similar dish. Be sure that the dish is clean and safe for food use before putting it out for the birds.
  • Lined Puddle: Create a natural focal point for thirsty birds with a simple puddle. Dig a slight depression in the ground and cover it with pond liner or a similar tarp or heavy plastic, then use rocks or bricks to mark the edge and hold down the liner before filling with water. You can also add other accents such as a pile of stones in the center or a fallen branch to provide a suitable perch.
  • In-Ground Basin: Bring any bath closer to the ground by digging out the sod or dirt to lower it into the ground, matching the same level as the grass. This works well with larger basins, such as an old trash can lid. Be sure the basin is secure and add gravel or stones to the center so it is shallow enough for small birds to use.
  • Water Dishes: A pet's water dish can easily become a ground level bird bath. Choose an auto-watering model with a jug reservoir to provide a larger supply of fresh water for birds to enjoy. Be sure to have a different dish for pets to use so that they do not scare away any visiting birds.

Caring for Bird Baths on the Ground

Whether a bird bath is homemade or purchased, it needs to be appropriately cared for so that birds can use it safely. For a ground bird bath:

  • Wash the bath regularly and keep it free of debris that can rot and cause bacterial growth.
  • Protect the bath from any lawn chemicals so that the water does not become contaminated.
  • Add gravel or stones to the basin so that the water is no more than 1 to 2 inches deep.
  • Position the bath near overhanging cover so birds feel safe using it, but take steps to discourage feral cats and keep pets away from the bath so the birds are not threatened.

A ground bath can be an easy addition to any birdscaping project and is a great way to attract more birds to a backyard. With different sizes and styles available, from simple basins to elaborate fountains, there is a ground level bird bath perfect for every birder's backyard.