Bird Baths – tips for keeping birds cool and safe
Posted on 14 December, 2017 by Tanya Loos
Bird baths – there are mosaic ones, terracotta ones, deep ones, shallow ones. What makes a great bird bath, and how do we best care for them?
Types of baths – for a variety of bathing styles
Very small birds like thornbills stand in shallow water, crouch down and then flutter their wings at unbelievable speed to bathe. Honeyeaters and fairy-wrens seem to dip into to deeper baths and almost swim through the water. Larger birds like rosellas wade in to a deep bath and create a massive splashy mess to their great enjoyment!
White-throated treecreepers creep up the side of a nearby log or branch, and then back into the bath. You can almost hear the reversing beep!
I have three baths of differing depths and heights, and each are used by different birds. As the bird bath enthusiasts among us know, bird baths are also used as baths and a source of clean drinking water by animals such as echidnas, wallabies, kangaroos, and frogs and reptiles. Occasionally a bird bath is used as a clever lure for the hunters among us – see the stunning images from the Yellow-footed antechinus and Grey fantail story here.
Location of the bath(s)
The placement of the bath is important for a few reasons. If it is in full sun, it will get too hot, and the birds are too exposed to aerial predators such as goshawks. Birds also need a place to perch and preen their feathers after their bath.
Pardalotes are very cautious at my place. They wait until the bath is jam-packed with happy visitors and then come down to the bath, checking for danger at many different perch heights as they approach. They visit the bath that is located under a a tall fruit tree and protective shrub. The White-browed scrubwrens and fairy-wrens share the deep mosaic bath on the ground with the rosellas.
Another reason to have plenty of perching spots around the bath area is that queues form on very hot days! Birds will wait nearby until there is enough room to fly down and have their turn.
Safety for the bathers
Ensure the bath is beyond the reach of cats – hang it from a tree or use a pedestal bath if cats are around. If you have a pedestal bird bath, some dead branches placed across the bath may make it more attractive for smaller birds.
Keep the water cool, fresh and clean. It’s a good idea to locate bird baths near your plants that need watering on hot days, so you can water your plants and refill the bird baths easily at the same time. It’s best to keep the bath clean by giving it a regular scrub with a brush, to avoid the spread of diseases such as Beak and Feather disease, which affects parrots.
If the bath is bucket shaped or deep, always provide a sturdy stick or series of stepping stones for small animals to climb out. I have seen skinks and young rosellas drowned in water that was too deep with smooth sides.
Finally, if you are going away, ask your neighbour to refill your bird bath, so your birds and other creatures don’t lose their water supply.
Here is a series of images from our staff member Bonnie Humphreys. Bonnie has three baths at her property in Barkers Creek. Note how clean and fresh the water is! Click on the arrow on the right hand side to move through the images… Thanks Bonnie!