Taking Care of Summer Birdbaths

Last Updated on August 13, 2021 by Nancie

Studio M Birdbath surrounded by Black-eyed Susan Flowers

It’s HOT outside and your summer birdbath is much appreciated by backyard birds. Be sure to take a few minutes every day to take care of your summer birdbath so it is full and the water is clean.

(Northern Mockingbird at Birdbath)
(Northern Mockingbird at Birdbath)

Choosing a Summer Birdbath

Offering birds water in the summer is super easy. You can do anything from simply putting out a saucer of fresh water, to purchasing a pricey artistic stone birdbath, to going all out with a full backyard water feature.

Summer is nice because you don’t have the winter worries about water freezing or whether a birdbath will crack in the cold. Any fairly shallow container that holds water can work. (Birds can sit on the rim and drink out of deeper water, but for them to actually use it for bathing, just a few inches in depth is best.)

When purchasing a birdbath, think about whether it is designed to be used year round or only during warmer months. Consider how easy it is to clean as well. Personally, I look for a birdbath that will stay put, but is not so heavy that I can’t move it or at least easily remove the basin if I need to do a thorough cleaning.

Check out my previous posts on using a plant saucer as a super cheap birdbath (and how to protect it from cats), my favorite purchased birdbath, plus an inexpensive birdbath option. (I’ve never had a backyard water feature so I can’t help you with that.)

(Chipping Sparrow Enjoying a Summer Sprinkler Shower)
(Chipping Sparrow Enjoying a Summer Sprinkler Shower)

Sprinklers and Summer Birds

Another sometimes unexpected way to please birds in the summer is a sprinkler. In my yard, I have more garden beds than lawn, so when I’m running the sprinkler, usually it is on garden plants. Very often there is a bush or tree branch that is getting wet too.

Some birds love taking a summer shower by hopping around the wet branches while a gentle sprinkler is splashing on them. In my yard, Northern Cardinals and Carolina Wrens particularly are drawn to a sprinkler that is wetting branches. Other birds like Tufted Titmouses, Chipping Sparrows and Carolina Chickadees also sometimes get in on the action. Birds don’t get excited about the sprinkler every time, but they are fun to watch when they do.

(Scrubbing Birdbath with Brush)
(Scrubbing Birdbath with Brush)

Keeping Your Summer Birdbath Clean

To avoid bird illness, it is important to keep your birdbath clean and full of fresh water. Birds have an unfortunate habit of pooping in a birdbath. Your birdbath can also accumulate stray feathers and fallen leaves that can bring in dirt. And algae can grow in it, especially if the birdbath is in the sun.

For me, the simplest way to deal with a birdbath is to not allow it to become a big mess to begin with. Any time I pass the birdbath and see a stray leaf or feather in it, I pluck it out. And each summer day, I dump the water and use a birdbath brush to quickly scrub the surface. Then I refill it with water either from a dedicated water pitcher filled in the house or using a drinking water hose. It’s quick and takes less than five minutes a day. (Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.)

Birdbaths should periodically get a more thorough cleaning, especially if you’ve seen a sick bird around. Scrub it with a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water. If it is really dirty or sickness is a concern, let the bleach mixture soak in the basin for ten minutes. Should the birdbath need to be soaked in place, cover it so a bird doesn’t try to drink from the bleach/water. I use bleach, but I understand that if you don’t want to use bleach, you can use one part vinegar to nine parts water. In that case, allow it to soak for half an hour.

Use clean water to thoroughly rinse the bleach off. Allow it to air dry before refilling it to make sure any lingering traces of bleach dissipate. (Note: You won’t want to get bleach on grass or plants. This is where a basin that can be removed for cleaning can be more convenient.)

(Carolina wren at Birdbath with Mosquito Dunk)
(Carolina wren at Birdbath with Mosquito Dunk)

Keeping Mosquitos Out of Your Summer Birdbath

In my hot and humid Maryland yard, mosquitos are a real pain. We try very hard to not to leave any containers out where water can collect that mosquitos can breed inside. We use Mosquito Bits in our gutters and Mosquito Dunks in our basement stair’s sump pump container. (The trick is to start early in April before the mosquitos can get a foothold.) Of course, we can’t control what our neighbors do, so we still sometimes have to stay coated with mosquito repellent.

Summer birdbaths don’t have to be mosquito breeding grounds. Mosquitos breed in standing water. If you have a birdbath fountain or water wiggler to keep the water moving, mom mosquito isn’t going to use it to breed. And even if you don’t and the female mosquito lays her eggs in the birdbath water, it takes the larva several days to a week to turn into adult mosquitos. If you dump and quick-scrub your summer birdbath at least every few days, the mosquitoes won’t be able to finish their growth cycle.

You can also use Mosquito Bits or Mosquito Dunks in your summer birdbath or other water feature. Both are safe for birds and work by keeping mosquito larva from developing into adults. Mosquito Dunks last longer, but I’ve found that they can accumulate dirt and algae over time in a birdbath. And sometimes I’ll get a batch that break up earlier than they should and wild critters will sometimes remove them from the birdbath. So I now sometimes toss some Mosquito Bits into the water after refilling it instead. When I’m switching the water out every day, this isn’t really necessary, but if I’m going to be gone for a few days, this is my fail safe.

(Blue Jay at Birdbath)
(Blue Jay at Birdbath)

Offer Birds Water in Summer

Even if you choose not to feed birds in the summer months, do consider offering water. The birds will appreciate it!

Please feel welcome to comment below about your summer birdbath experiences if you like.

Nancie

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2 thoughts on “Taking Care of Summer Birdbaths

  1. I love these ideas! I have not been running my sprinkler, but I will start! Also, though I have used Mosquito Dunks in my 55 gal. sunken Rubbermaid water feature, I had never heard about using Mosquito Bits & I never knew they existed! I will be ordering some today! Thanks so much for all the great ideas & tips! I would like to add that planting plants that are native to your locale is a HUGE boost for all wildlife while they are much easier to find & do not require annual replacement! Cheaper! Better for Wildlife! WINNING! : ) Join your local or state Native Plant Society to learn more! : )

    1. Hi Susie,
      Sure thing. Happy to share what I’ve learned. And I 100% agree with you on using perennial plants native to your own area. The reason I’ve been running my sprinklers so much is that I’ve been adding more and more native plants of all sizes and types to my yard, especially over the past few years. (They need to be well watered while they are getting established.) I’ve been passing the annuals displays at the nurseries by and am loving being able to build a native garden over time that lasts. So much fun and watching the birds poking around all over the yard (and not just at feeders) is great. Completely agree.
      Nancie

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