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Water is essential for birds. Birds need to bathe to keep their plumage in good condition and drink to survive. It is an excellent idea to supply water for birds in your garden, and you should notice that this will bring more birds into your garden.

Birds need water to drink and bathe. Having fresh water in your garden will attract birds looking for a safe way to bathe and drink. Ponds will also attract birds into your garden. Birdbaths should be installed in a secure area from predators with a shallow ledge for birds to stand on and should be cleaned regularly.

Having water in your garden is essential to bringing birds into your garden. Let’s look at what you can do and why birds need water.

Do you know how to attract nesting birds to your garden?  Find out here

Bird in birdbath

Drinking water

Birds need to take in moisture to survive, and they get most of this through food. Small birds will generally need to drink once or twice a day. Birds do not sweat or urinate, so you will not see them drinking frequently.

Their usual diet depends on how often birds will drink. Birds that survive on a diet of insects will need less moisture than birds that eat seeds.

Drinking leaves birds vulnerable to predators, and many sparrows can often be seen gathering at the same time to keep a lookout for predators. Birds dip their heads into the water and take a quick sip before the head is tipped back and the water runs down the throat. They will continue this until they have drunk enough.

This method allows them to keep as safe as possible while unaware of their surroundings. However, drinking water must be put in a safe place so that predators cannot get to them. I like to keep mine in the shade so that the water doesn’t get too hot in summer. However, I have to weigh this up against the chance of a neighbour’s cat jumping down from a branch.

Make sure to clean it out regularly; I clean mine once a week. I use a capful of bleach in a bucket of water and use a bristled brush to wipe off any poop. Make sure you rinse it thoroughly, and it should be good for a week or two.

Water may get too hot in summer for birds to drink or get any satisfaction from, which is also true in winter. Birds need water in winter as much as in summer, and a drinking area that has frozen over isn’t going to provide any nourishment. Some birdbaths do come with a heater in them. However, if you are doing this yourself, I would recommend just making a small hole in the ice so they can drink but not bathe.

Do you know why birds lay eggs?  Find out in this article I wrote


Birds need to bathe often to keep their plumage clean and in excellent condition. This is helpful in summer when birds can get too hot, but in winter is just as important. Many birds can be seen bathing in winter to fluff out their feathers to insulate them properly.

Feathers can become waterlogged, so most birds will not immerse themselves fully in the water. If they become waterlogged, they may fall foul to predators.

Birds can normally be seen standing on the water’s edge, splashing themselves and ruffling their feathers and wings to spread the water. This allows them to watch themselves thoroughly before becoming too wet.

They may then dry themselves in the sun to dry quickly. Cormorants can be seen extending their wings fully to dry themselves. Once a bird is nearly dry, they will preen themselves, putting feathers back in the right place and cleaning them.

Birds usually bathe once a day, and you may see the same birds come back to your bath every day. A birdbath full of water is enough to help many birds keep their plumage clean.

Birdbaths are excellent for birds as it gives them a source of drinking water and somewhere relatively safe for them to bathe.

Birdbaths are designed for the purpose, but you should look for one that is a simple construction with shallow sides so that small birds won’t slip in. My birdbath has a rough surface so that birds can grip the sides, which they seem to love. I accidentally got a heavy one the first time, but I found it was so heavy I couldn’t clean it properly.

A birdbath is a great way to bring birds to your garden, and it is easy to spend hours watching them. Birdbaths do not have to be expensive, and a dustbin lid placed on some bricks on the ground is a great beginner birdbath.

Birdbaths come in all shapes and sizes and come in fibreglass, plastic, ceramic, and stone. Once the birdbath is placed in the garden, you should notice birds using it quite quickly.

If you have a birdbath in your garden, you need to clean it regularly to kill any germs. I clean mine once a week.

Find out how to keep birds safe in your garden here

Bird in birdbath

Using a pond to attract birds

I had some lovely fish in my pond until a heron came down and helped himself to them, but a pond can help bring many other birds to your garden. Ponds do not need to be large, and even a small pond will make many birds stop.

Ponds are excellent for birds as they provide almost everything a bird needs. Garden ponds provide clean water for birds to drink and an excellent place to bathe. Ponds are excellent at attracting insects which are a great food source for many birds. However, they can also attract cats that will feed on the fish and the aforementioned herons and kingfishers.

If your pond is established, then it will probably already be teeming with life, and birds will already be attracted to it. However, if it is newly dug, then a bucket full of water from a local pond should be able to stock it with all the insects and seeds it needs.

Try and put different plants into your pond to attract birds to your garden. Even if they don’t use the pond and instead use the birdbath, the pond will be what attracts them to the garden. Water-milfoil, water starwort, white water-lily, water plantain, and water forget-me-not are all great plants for ponds.

Ponds also attract other animals to your garden, and amphibians such as frogs and toads may make your pond their breeding ground. Pond skaters will often be seen racing around the top of the pond, and water beetles and water snails may be seen clinging to plants.

Depending on your tastes, exotic fish such as Japanese koi can be put in your pond, or you can have a pond with smaller, local fish. Just be aware that herons and other fish-eating birds do not care how much you pay for your fish.

If you can put in a type of moving water such as a small waterfall, then this will attract even more birds to your garden.

There are many ways that birds keep warm.  Find out more here