Water is very important for birds and baths in gardens can be invaluable to them. During the hot summer months, when natural water sources are often hard to find, they provide a much needed drink stop. In the winter they tend to be one of the only water sources to have the top layer of ice removed. They also perform an extremely important role in feather maintenance by providing space to bathe. It is essential that birds keep their feathers in good condition both for flying and insulation. As a result, they spend a significant amount of time looking after them. Dampening the feathers in clean water loosens the dirt and makes their feathers easier to preen.
Make your own…
Bird baths do not need to be expensive and they are really easy to make at home! All you need is a dish that is easy to clean, has shallow sloping edges and a textured edge (for grip). Ideally a dish large enough for several birds to bathe at once and with water about 2- 10 cm deep will attract a variety of species.
To make ours we have recycled old materials from around the farm. We have used a couple of used tyres to give some height to our bath and an old metal bin lid for the dish. The bin lid is the perfect size and shape with lovely sloping edges. The only problem is that the sides do not provide any grip. Luckily we have plenty of Cotswold stone in the fields, so we have chosen a few very thin, flat stones to line the dish. These stones and lid can all be easily removed and cleaned with a brush every few weeks, as with bird feeder cleaning, this helps to reduce the chance of spreading any infections.
Pop your bath near some shrubbery so that the birds can retreat to safety if they feel threatened. Branches nearby can also be very useful for the birds to perch on whilst rearranging their feathers.