A Bath For The Birds

By Sharon Naylor

February 18, 2011 6 min read

When you add a birdbath to your garden d?cor, you invite colorful, winged songbirds to your property. They delight you with their songs and flitting play. You can delight them with a fresh, clean water source from which to drink.

*Types of Birdbaths

First, choose your ideal design of birdbath according to what would look best in your garden or yard.

--Ground birdbaths are simple basins that rest on the ground and usually are shaped like a wide, round bowl. These low-set birdbaths provide a water source for birds, such as ducks and quail, and also may attract smaller birds alongside them.

--Pedestal birdbaths are bowl-shaped or square-shaped stone basins set atop a pedestal, raised from the ground. This is the most popular style for gardens and is quite easy to install, as well as easily reached for cleaning.

--A fountain birdbath is one that has a fountain-style water feature to keep water moving in the basin, and garden enthusiasts say they find the fountain sound to be soothing, an essential part of the garden environment they enjoy.

You may wish to install a heated birdbath that keeps standing water from freezing. This feature often is chosen for heavy, stone birdbaths or oversize bronze birdbaths that cannot be moved indoors during the winter months. And if you're eco-minded, you'll be happy to know that many birdbaths come with solar power panels to move or heat the water in the basin.

*Choosing Your Materials

According to garden specialist David Brill, you can find birdbaths made from a wide variety of natural and aggregate materials. The most common, according to Brill, are concrete, ceramic, copper and brass, both for their strength and their attractive appearance as an enhancement to a garden design.

For a more artistic look and perhaps a match to your garden design theme, you'll find birdbaths made from glass or stone or ceramic embedded with shell or colored-glass mosaics. And for an upscale, dramatic fountain, marble is a common material.

Your chosen material should work with weather extremes. Ceramic, for instance, is more delicate than concrete and could be damaged by ice and snow falling from a rooftop. Many gardeners, for this reason, choose lightweight plastic fountains that look like stone material but are light enough to move indoors during harsh winters.

*The Right Size

To select the right size birdbath for your garden's space, Brill suggests that you cut a few circles of different sizes out of cardboard and place them in the spot where you wish to place your birdbath. This will give you an idea of the dimensions of the birdbath that would look most natural in your garden. "It's always best to shop for birdbaths at a garden store," Brill says. "An online photo's printed dimensions will not be as evident to you as the impression that a birdbath gives in person."

*The Right Color

The most popular shade of birdbath right now, according to Brill, is slate gray. Tans and sandy shades are also in vogue. Earthy neutrals accent gardens beautifully, but let the flowers and trees stand out without color competition. Colored accents might be garden-matching green or the popular cobalt or aqua found in mosaic inserts.

*The Cost

The cost of your birdbath will depend upon the material, size, design and detailing, as well as the presence of water features, solar power or heating elements. The most common plastic birdbaths can be found at garden stores for about $20, and birdbaths made from decorative stone, aggregate, bronze or other materials may cost $150 or more. Don't forget the need for a flat stone base on which your birdbath will sit, which may add another $15 or so to your tally.

*Cleaning Your Birdbath

Many gardeners prefer pedestal birdbaths, which provide the easiest access for cleaning. Lightweight plastic birdbaths may be tipped to assist in the dumping of old water and rinsing during the cleaning process.

The positioning of your birdbath helps to keep it cleaner. Place it in a shady spot to keep it cooler and prevent excess algae growth. Don't place it under a tree that drops leaves or flowers regularly, or those organic materials will rot in the standing water.

When it is time to clean your birdbath, wear rubber gloves to protect your skin, especially any cuts you might have on your fingers, from fecal matter and algae, and use an aquarium-style fishnet to scoop out any debris. Dump out the stagnant water, and use an organic birdbath-cleaning solution found at garden centers to clean your birdbath as you scrub it on all bowl and rim surfaces with a medium-bristle brush. Use a garden hose to rinse your birdbath thoroughly, until there is no more cloudiness or soap bubbles, and then refill your birdbath with fresh water. Enact this cleaning process at least twice a week to keep your birdbath water clean and your garden accent attractive to all.

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