Aug 9, 2017 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, August 2017

Ask Birdsquatch: What's Wrong with My Bird Bath?

Birds flock to a backyard bird bath.

Dear Birdsquatch:

I bought a birdbath at my local garden center. It's ceramic with a beautiful blue glaze on it. It looks amazing in my flower garden but it's been out there for a month and still no birds have gone near it. I've kept it clean and full of water. What gives? Don't the birds need water?


Dear JoAnne,

Wasn't Clint Eastwood the mayor of your town a while back? Wow! How cool is THAT? Did you ever get to meet Mr. Josey Wales/ Pale Rider/Dirty Harry/Gran Torino? I wouldn't know what to say if I met him—especially if he said: "Go ahead. Make my day, 'squatch!"

Sorry about that. Guess I'm a little star-struck, vicariously.

Water! Yes, that's what we're talking about...Okay. My guess as to why you have no birds has to do with how the bath is made and how you're presenting it to the birds. Ironically, the thing that makes your birdbath beautiful to you is what makes it hard to use for birds.

The shiny, almost glassy, glaze on the ceramic birdbath makes for slippery footing for a bird wanting to take a dip. Birds hate slippery footing—like sasquatches hate being filmed. They avoid it like the plague. But worry not! There's a simple solution.

Get a few nice flat stones or rocks and place them in the birdbath basin. You may also want to spread a small bucketful of pea gravel across the bottom of the bath. This not only gives the bath a more natural look, it also improves the footing for the birds, which makes them feel safer using the bath. You see, a wet bird can't fly or flee very well if danger strikes. So birds are naturally wary of any situation involving slippery footing or deep water. Which reminds me…keep the water in your birdbath shallow. Less than two inches is best, since birds like to stand in water and splash it over themselves rather than totally immersing themselves in it. Again, a soaked bird has a hard time flying, so most birds use the sit-and- splash method for bathing.

And speaking of splashing: Moving water is nearly irresistible to birds. If you place two identical birdbaths in matching backyards, one with moving water from a mister, dripper, recirculating pump, or some other device, and one with still, unmoving water, the bath with motion will get vastly more birds. I'm not sure why this is exactly. But I do know that as I ramble around the forests of this great continent I always choose a moving body of water for a drinking source. Still water is usually stagnant, tastes bad, and can do awful things to my "system." Maybe birds feel the same way.

One other trick I've seen work is to remove the bath basin from the pedestal. Natural pools in which birds bathe or from which they drink are rarely found three feet off the ground. Instead they are found down at the ground level. If you follow these suggestions I'll bet you a DVD copy of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly that you'll have birds coming to your bath in no time.

Try out these ideas and see if one of your birds doesn't come up to you and say, "Go ahead. Fill the birdbath. Make my day!"

Take it easy and tell Clint he's got a fan in me!

About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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