Types of Bird Baths

Which Baths Are Best for Your Birds and Your Yard?

American Robin in a Bird Bath
Courtney Celley / USFWS / Flickr / Public Domain Mark 1.0

Before you choose a bird bath, it is important to understand how many different types of bird baths are available. With many different designs, sizes, and decorative styles, there is a bird bath suitable for every birder’s garden.

Basic Bird Bath Designs

There are several basic types of baths that can be purchased in a wide range of styles.

  • Ground: A ground bird bath is the simplest model and is nothing more than a basin that rests on the ground. These bird baths can easily be created from shallow dishes such as pie plates or plant saucers, or more elaborate models with dripper or fountain accessories are available. Ground bird baths are essential to provide water to large birds such as quail and ducks, and many smaller birds will also visit lower baths.
  • Pedestal: A pedestal bird bath has an elevated basin but the entire bath stands on the ground. These are quick and easy models to assemble and install, though they can also be bulky and heavy. Because pedestal models are the most popular, they come in the widest range of design styles.
  • Hanging: A hanging bird bath is a shallow basin suspended from a cord or chain that is meant to be hung from a gutter, tree branch, or garden hook. These models are generally less expensive than pedestal bird baths, but they also have a smaller capacity and come in fewer designs.
  • Fountain: A fountain bird bath features moving water in addition to a shallow drinking or bathing basin. The moving water may be a bubbler, spray, or gravity-powered dripping fountain. These are excellent choices for attracting birds with water, since the noise of the water and the movement make the bath more noticeable.
  • Heated: Many birders in cooler climates opt for heated bird baths. While birds can use caloric energy to convert snow and ice to water, having an available source of liquid water allows them to use that energy for heat and survival during cold winters. Heated bird baths do not create warm water, but generally keep it from completely freezing. Sophisticated models include thermostats for energy efficiency and regulated use.
  • Solar: A solar powered bird bath has built in solar panels that provide energy either for heating the water or to add movement through a bubbler or fountain. In some models, the solar panels can be removed if desired. These are expensive bird baths but can be dynamic additions to a garden.

Construction Materials

All the different types of bird baths can be found made from different materials. While concrete, ceramic, and plastic bird baths are the most common, other popular materials include:

  • Metal, particularly copper or brass
  • Glass, stone, or shell mosaics, often with patterns or pictures
  • Marble or granite, especially for elaborate fountains

Which construction material you should choose for a bird bath is largely a matter of personal preference. Some materials, such as ceramic and glass mosaics, are more delicate than sturdier materials such as concrete and plastic. Birders who have other decorative elements in their garden, such as multi-colored gazing balls or concrete statues, may prefer certain bird bath materials because they match the existing accents. Some birders also prefer to choose materials based on their weight, especially to make cleaning and relocating the bird bath easier.

Decorative Options

Not only do bird baths come in many different styles and materials, but because these are decorative garden fixtures, they also have a range of design options. Accents and characteristics that must be considered when choosing a bird bath include:

  • Lip Width: A wider lip offers more perching space but has a less delicate appearance.
  • Depth: An ideal bird bath is 1-2 inches deep, but some models include shallow islands or edges for more depth variety.
  • Color: Bird baths are available in every color. Natural earth tones and water-related shades such as blue, white, and aqua are particularly popular.
  • Shape: Round bird baths are by far the most common, but square basins are also available. Leaf and shell shapes are popular for smaller baths.
  • Sculptures: Many bird baths feature decorative carvings and sculptures on the pedestal or edge of the basin. Popular designs include leaves, flowers, butterflies, small birds, turtles, fish, or other related accents. More whimsical designs may even resemble cats, gnomes, or other fun features.


For many backyard birders, the ultimate deciding factor among types of bird baths is the cost. Simple, basic bird baths can cost as little as $15-20, and many birders and gardeners can make their own baths for even less. More elaborate designs, including solar bird baths and fountains, can cost $200 or higher depending on their size, style, and features.

Understanding the many types of bird baths available can help both birders and gardeners choose the best bird bath for their personality, garden décor, and budget while still providing a valuable water source for all backyard birds.