It’s been a dry month in this part of Georgia. Leaves are drying up and falling, much earlier than usual. We had lots of rain with Hurricane Irma, and today we have rain with Nate passing over us, but in between was bone dry. Dust clouds follow the lawn mowers, and lots of birds have been flocking to the birdbath.
This month there are several new birds, or at least rare birds, that are hanging out. About a dozen warblers come in daily. I believe they are Tennessee Warblers , but I’m not 100% sure. Redstarts and Hooded Warblers have also stopped by often.
You can see Tennessee Warblers and a Redstart in the video below.
The birdbath in the video is homemade, and started life as an experimental fire pit. During the experiment it filled with water and birds immediately started visiting it, ignoring the 2 store bought birdbaths in the yard. After researching birdbaths online, adjustments were made and birds absolutely love it – even though it is a little dumpy looking. Dad helped me set this one up a few years ago. When we finished, we sat down before gathering up the tools, and looked over to see a bird work its way down through the branches to get in the water. We were completely shocked.
The reasons I think the birds like this one, versus the store bought baths are listed below. This info came from several sources, and lots of trial and error, but Cornell is a good resource for birding if you’d like to research further.
Mark’s Birdbath Tips:
- Natural is better. Birds need to feel at home and trust the space.
- Birds can see water from above easier if the birdbath has a darker bottom.
- A bath with a rough bottom is easier for birds to land and stand on.
- Add rocks to vary the puddle size so its welcoming to birds of different sizes.
- Shallow is best. The deepest part of this bath is only about 2-3″ deep, and in those spots I have rocks providing a slope so nothing gets trapped without an exit.
- Add a fountain so there is a trickle. It does not need to be strong, but the sound will attract birds. The pump I use is about $20 at Lowe’s and is simple to set up.
- Don’t put your pump at the bottom of the pond – it can get clogged with sediment and burn up. Set it on a block or a brick to keep it off the bottom.
- Provide natural cover, like branches and plants, so the birds can check out the surroundings before jumping into the pool. They need to trust the area first.
I found that most birdbaths at stores were designed around humans, not necessarily birds. For this reason, I got a pond liner and altered it to fit my needs. See the diagram below. Since it worked well, we followed the same tips and built an even larger version for my dad in West Virginia. It too gets more birds than his previous birdbaths.
About the birdbath in the video.
We started with a simple pond liner from Lowe’s and dug a pit just slightly shorter than the height of the liner.
Because most pond liners are too deep for a birdbath, we bought hardware cloth wire and made a shelf about 3 inches from the TOP of the pond. This is to hold rocks and give a “bottom” to the bath, but will still allow you to have a large reservoir of water. Don’t Secure the wire yet, just set it in and measure the distance from the bottom of the liner to the wire. Note that I forgot to label the wire in the image, but its roughly the same as the “water level” line.
That measurement will be the height of the supports you need for the basin that sits on top and serves as the main part of the bath. I used a cinder block standing on its end. If its an odd size,stack bricks or even use an upside down bucket for support.
Add a brick or something similar for your pump to sit on. The liner we used had a ledge built on to the sides that was perfect for the pump.
Once that support is in, you can place your wire back into the liner. The wire should be resting at the top of the support. Remember – you aren’t looking for perfection here. As long as your support is stable you’re good.
Cut a hole in the wire large enough for the pump, the hoses, and your hand to fit into.
Make sure the hole in the wire is above the spot or brick where your pump will go. We screwed the wire to the top lip of the birdbath. Pre-drill these so it doesn’t crack the liner.
Next Add a layer of bricks, or in our case a half cinder block on top of the support, sandwiching the wire in between.
Add your basin on top of this. Ours was a homemade concrete bowl, but on dad’s we used a dark saucer, about 15″ wide from Lowe’s that was meant to sit under a flower pot.
Make sure the stack is stable. If yes, you are ready to add the pump through the hole in the wire. The hose from the pump will run into the basin. The basin will fill and then pour over into the pond liner.
Add a little water to the basin and test the pump. You will want to add a rock, or small piece of wood under the basin so the water pours where you want it to.
If everything tests well, fill the liner up so that there are about 2-3 inches of water over the wire. You can add rocks to the basin, and to the wire on top of the wire in the pond liner. This way you get two good layers to your birdbath. Rocks and natural items can be added to hide any of the wire or support as well.
Add a tree branch or plants for the birds to perch on while they wait to bathe. This seems unimportant, but after dad told me to do this I started seeing more birds. I believe it gives them a feeling of safety.
That’s pretty much it. We have set up the yard to give birds lots of cover and opportunities to feed as well. Hopefully these tips help out with your birdbath design.
Cardinal photos used with permission of Cindy Barnes Reed Photography. @cindybarnesreed on instagram.