by Annie B. Bond
Adapted from Natural Gardening for Birds by Julie Zickefoose and the Editors and Writers of Bird Watcher's Digest.
Interest in birdbaths and water features in the backyard landscape is growing. Many birders say that it is much more fun to watch birds bathe than it is to watch them sit on a feeder and stuff their beaks.
When shopping for a birdbath, look for three key features:
1. The bathing basin should be less than 3 inches (8 cm) deep—and you should fill it with only 2 inches (5 cm) of water. Most songbirds won’t bathe in water that’s any deeper than that; they prefer to hunker down in a depth that barely reaches the bottoms of their bellies.
2. Make sure the bottom of the bathing basin has a rough surface. Many birdbath bottoms are often too slick to provide secure footing for birds, especially when a coat of algae forms on submerged surfaces. If you can find only a smooth surface basin, rough it up with sandpaper or the claws of a hammer (for plastic basins only!) before filling it with water.
3. Make sure the basin fits securely on the pedestal and won’t be subject to tipping by thirsty dogs, raccoons, deer, or, in wilder reaches, bears. No one wants to pick up an overturned birdbath every morning, and few folks want to replace a broken basin every time in thirsty critter tries to scale the pedestal.
You can search for a one-piece birdbath, or you could use a waterproof adhesive to attach the basin to the pedestal. Also, weight the base or sink it in the ground to minimize tipping over.
Read more nature and wildlife articles by Annie B. Bond.
My personal thoughts on bird baths are to make sure it's something that's easy to clean. Having a rough surface for the birds also gives the bath many crevices to grow and hold on to algae. If you are willing to dump and refill with fresh water every other day, you can scrub the bath quickly with a brush to keep the algae from beginning to form.
To be able to maintain your bird bath in this fashion you will want it as close to the house as possible, which makes it more visible for the entertainment also.