The Importance of Water
Water is important to birds equally in the summer as in the winter to keep them clean. In the summer, water helps cool birds off. In the winter, birds will actually increase their bathing since they need to keep their feathers clean to stay warm.
A birdbath is helpful for nesting parents, who with a convenient water source nearby, need not be away from the nest for extended periods of time.
The Importance of Water
Unfrozen water can be as hard for birds to find in winter as food. Birds need water not only to drink, bur also to keep their feathers clean and fluffy to provide the insulation to keep warm in cold weather. A dependable supply of fresh water will even attract birds to your yard that would not ordinarily come to your feeders. A shallow, easy-to-clean birdbath is the best kind – an upside down garbage can lid of large frying pan will work fine. To emulate a nature puddle as closely as possible, simply dig a shallow hole in the ground and line it with plastic before filling with water. An immersion-style water heater will keep your birdbath unfrozen in the winter. Clean your birdbath often and keep it filled with fresh water.
Setting up your Birdbath
Place your birdbath somewhere that is easily visible to you, and close to a water source for easy filling and cleaning. Remember, birdbaths are basically artificial puddles, so shallow is better.
Birdbaths should be placed far enough away from feeders (4-5 feet) to prevent contamination from debris. Baths should also be placed in the vicinity of trees or shrubs, so that after bathing the birds can quickly reach a protected spot to preen and clean.
Adding a dripper or mister mechanism to your birdbath to create moving water is very attractive to birds. This will help birds recognize the water and increase the number of bird species in your backyard. If your bath has no running water, be sure it is in partial shade to keep the water cool enough in the summer months.
The Best Bath is a Clean One
It is important to keep your birdbath clean and filled with fresh water. Emptying and scrubbing the baths every two or three days will prevent bacteria, algae, Salmonella and other disease organisms from fouling the water. Household products such as vinegar are fine to use as a cleaning agent; never use chemicals.
Many species of birds like hummingbirds take "leaf baths" by rubbing up against wet foliage. Hummingbirds in particular are very fond of water and of leaf bathing, even directly in the mist from waterfalls and garden hoses or spraying mechanisms.