How to provide safe water for the birds

Our gardens are packed full of natural food for our feathered friends; seeds, berries, nuts and fruit are bountiful in the autumn. Coupled with a regular supply of nutritious, healthy bird food, the garden birds can feed up and prepare for the winter ahead.

Choose a high quality nutrient rich bird food to feed the birds like Richard Jackson Premium Bird Food. Feed the birds to support them through their seasonal moult. Feed them to replenish lost energy while they raised their brood.

Feed the garden birds to keep them close. Image: Martin Mulchinock

But don’t forget to provide fresh water too. Birds like all creatures need to drink. They need a fresh supply of clean water to keep healthy and hydrated and they also use water to bathe. They can derive some moisture from insects and berries that make up some of their diet, but they also drink water from birdbaths, water features, drinkers and ponds. Rainwater is best if it is fresh, but tap water is perfectly suitable too.

Shallow water

For wildlife safety choose a shallow birdbath that can be safely exited by wildlife. Ideally it needs to have a graduated, shallow edge where birds can enter the water safely and leave quickly. A rough surface will allow the birds a better grip than a shiny smooth surface, or look for a stepped birdbath that offers different creatures safe access. If you bird bath is a water feature, pond or pool then ensure that there is a shallow edge for safe escape. Place some flat large pebbles or rocks in the shallows to provide drinking platforms for different creatures. If the water is too deep add a layer of stones or gravel to the bottom.

WildlifeWorld Shenstone Theatre Bird Bath
Let wildlife drink safely with this stepped bird bath designed to make access and exit easier. Image: Wildlife World

Safe place

Think carefully about where you position your birdbath. While bathing, birds can be vulnerable to predators. Place it near some low branches where they quickly hop up to and avoid problems. Avoid overhanging branches, as leaves and debris will quickly build up in your birdbath, especially in autumn and winter. A ground birdbath will allow other creatures to drink safely too and provide a watering hole for wildlife. In hot weather this can be a lifesaver for mammals as well as birds.

Water wise

It’s important to keep birdbaths and drinkers clean, but it is also important to keep them free from harmful chemicals too. Cleaning off algae and other debris will also make your birdbath look nicer. Look for a biological cleaner or a wildlife friendly cleaner such as Ark Klens. Scrub them with a brush and rinse well.

Wildlife matters

Be aware that all sorts of wildlife will drink from your birdbath from insects and birds to hedgehogs and even cats. Never add anything to the water to prevent it freezing, even for garden water features as these chemicals are often toxic and can kill. Instead, change the water frequently. Add a few rocks to create islands in the water and drop a tennis ball into the birdbath or pond that can be removed to allow access to the water below.

Even insects need water. Ensure there is a shallow edge to your water bath. Image: AdobeStock/Paul

Safety in numbers

If you’ve got the room, why not add a few bathing stations to different areas of your garden? A plant saucer is ideal for small spaces, but remember that some birds like the bathe en masse, so consider a larger water bath if you are able to, or position a few around the garden. Keep them clean and topped up with fresh water.

A shallow bowl is ideal for providing wildlife with precious water. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Flower bowls

Make a feature from your birdbaths by randomly floating flower heads in them. If you knock a bloom from your plants, simply place it onto the water surface where it will drink from the water, add some colour and drama and even allow insects to drink safely.    

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