Birds need water – both to drink and to bathe. Birdbaths, or some type of water feature is a functional and decorative way to provide this basic essential feature to birds in the garden.

Details Landscape Art designs and builds fine gardens in Sonoma and Napa Counties, and often includes some type of water feature in the design. Our May 19, 2015 blog on water features discusses ponds and waterfalls in depth. Here we talk about birdbaths in more detail.

Running water in the garden adds the soothing sound of water in motion. Stationary water adds the reflective element that features a shimmering effect as well as doubling the view of plant material and flowers reflecting back off the surface. But nothing beats sitting out in the garden and watching birds splashing in the birdbath.

A birdbath can be simple – a shallow pan set out on the ground – or complex and decorative. There are certain common denominators that are essential elements in a good birdbath. Many of the smaller birds barely enter the water and merely ‘get their feet wet’. So either a shallow water bath or a larger feature with at least a shallow end will attract the smaller birds. Other larger birds, like bluebirds and robins like to get into the water and splash around, so a deeper water version is good for them. You can play with the depth of the water in a little deeper water birdbath, by adding flat rocks of different thicknesses, especially around the perimeter, so the smaller and medium size birds can dip their feet in and maybe go in to another water level by advancing to another stone. And it’s always a great idea to have multiple birdbaths around the garden. The more the merrier!

Note that birds are not neat. They splash water out of the birdbath, drink some, and of course some water will evaporate. So be prepared to refill the birdbaths every few days. And every so often they will need to be cleaned – feathers and droppings may appear and become unsightly.

It is a good idea to place birdbaths out of the reach of cats and small children. If there are cats, place the birdbaths in an open area where the cats can’t hide and suddenly spring onto the bath and catch birds. If there are no cats, then place the birdbaths near a tree or near plants that will allow the birds to sit and ensure the bath is safe. We recommend placing multiple birdbaths at different heights. Remember, birds and birdbaths are features of the garden, and it is nice to spread the joy around.

Offer the birds water all year round, especially in winter. In our Sonoma County warm winter climate there is little danger of water freezing, so keep those birdbaths filled in the colder months.

Water in the garden is always a lovely feature. It appeals to our sense of sight and sound, especially a waterfall or other running water. And the birds love it too!