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Attract Many More Birds with Fresh Water

Sparrow drinking water from a birdbath.

Providing water to attract birds to your yard is as important — perhaps more important — than feeding them. Birds need water to drink and to keep their feathers clean for flying. There are many ways to provide water to birds, but these are the most common: birdbaths, misters, drippers, and ponds or fountains. Here's how to incorporate water sources for birds into your landscape while keeping the birds and your family safe.


Available in various styles, birdbaths are the most common water sources in the home landscape. A common concern regarding birdbaths is that the standing water can grow algae, encourage mosquito breeding or become dirty. While concrete birdbaths are very stable, they can also be difficult to clean. A plastic or metal birdbath is easier to manage and less likely to freeze and crack in winter. Make sure that the water is no deeper than 2 in. in at least part of the birdbath. Birds need to be able to stand in the birdbath without being submerged.

Change the water in the birdbath every two to three days, and give the birdbath a good scrubbing once a week. You can insert a bubbler to circulate the water, which will help control algae and mosquitoes, as well as attract more birds to your birdbath. During winter, you can heat the water to keep it from freezing, but if you use a heater, build a framework of sticks above the water to allow the birds to perch to drink, but not to bathe. (Bathing in temperatures below 20 degrees can cause the birds injury when they emerge from their bath.)

Misters and Drippers

Some birds are attracted to the sound of dripping water or the shininess of wet leaves. Hummingbirds, for example, like to bathe on dripping leaves rather than in a birdbath. Provide water for these birds by installing misters or drippers in your garden. You can create a little microhabitat and moss garden by using these misters. Be sure to place the misters around plants that like moist conditions — otherwise you'll inadvertently kill the plants and create a mud pit!

Ponds and Fountains

Fountains are a great source of water for birds, as long as you put something in the fountain so that parts of it are shallow enough for the birds to stand. Fountains circulate the water, and the sound of running water will lure birds to your yard. Circulated water is also less likely than standing water to have algae or mosquito problems. Ponds with fountains or recirculating streams are ideal for birds, as long as some areas of the pond are shallow enough for the birds to stand in the water.

By providing wild birds with a clean water source, not only will you enjoy seeing far more of them in your garden, but you'll also be helping them survive and thrive at a time when their natural resources are being threatened.