Top 10 Reasons Why Birds Are Not Using Your Bird Bath

Home » Articles » Birds Not Using Bird Bath

Does it seem like your neighborhood birds not using bird bath? This is a serious problem for avid bird watchers looking to attract fine feathered friends to their aviary paradise. I’ve figured out 10 reasons why this may be happening and I’ll share them with you today.

Birds might not use your bird bath for many reasons. Many birds dislike deep water, slippery surfaces, wide-open locations, and dirty water. Other birds possess a serious distaste for warm water, highly placed basins, no staging or preening perches, and stagnant water that doesn’t move. Finally, the last possible reason is a preferred hidden water source.

And that’s only the beginning of this discussion. I’ll dive deeply into each of these categories and share more related information that includes:

  • Dirty water scaring away the birds
  • Hidden water sources attracting local birds
  • Deep bird baths possibly drowning the birds
  • What colors do birds find attractive
  • Why birds like taking baths
  • and much more

Let’s get started deconstructing the possible reasons why birds aren’t using your bird bath…

birds not using bird bath

Reason #1: The Bird Bath Water Is Too Dirty

In an effort to attract more birds to your backyard, you’ve decided to put in a bird bath. This was a great idea and it should work. Except you’re leaving the bath water too dirty for your fine feathered friends to enjoy.

Why is this a problem?

Remember, the birds are not only here to clean themselves, but they also want to drink this fresh, cool water. If it’s filled with dirt, debris, old rotting birdseed, and other nasty disease spreading elements this could be very harmful to them.

Guess what? They know when the water is contaminated. And they’ll do everything in their power to avoid it because they have no interest in getting sick.

Every day, please take a moment to check your bath water. Ask yourself:

  • Is it too dirty?
  • Is it filled with grime?
  • Is it giving off a foul odor?
  • Is it filled with debris?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should immediately change the water right away after cleaning the basin. And as a rule, change the water every 2-4 days to play it safe.

Related reading:

Reason #2: The Water In The Basin Is Too Deep

Here’s the deal:

Birds do not like deep water. They find it scary, really dangerous, and they recognize their potential to drown in it.

As a matter of fact, birds never bathe themselves in deep water. It’s too scary and too unsafe. They typically clean themselves in a nearby puddle because it’s shallow, readily available, and most important of all, a bird is never going to drown when splashing around and preening in a thin puddle.

Is the water in your bird bath really deep? Consider adding river rocks, stones, or pebbles to the bottom to raise the floor. Or drain the bird bath enough so that the water level matches that of a puddle.

Reason #3: The Basin Surface Is Too Slippery

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that birds, like humans, aren’t interested in slipping and falling either. They prefer standing on a surface that’s more on the rougher side while standing in water.

Why?

Well, the reason they prefer a rougher surface is because it’s easier to grip. Coarse concrete or filling the basin of your birdbath with pebbles or stones is a great way to eliminate a smooth surface and make it easier for the birds to stand up comfortably without slipping.

Reason #4: The Bird Bath Location Doesn’t Provide Any Cover

How many people enjoy bathing in front of a crowd? Or even worse, how many of you would like to take a shower in the middle of your backyard?

Does that sound even slightly appealing? Heck no!

You’d obviously prefer having a bit of privacy as you complete your bathing ritual.

Guess what? The same thing holds true for birds. They want their bird bath to be protected by some type of coverage like a tree, shrub, or maybe even the side of the house.

Why is this important? Actually, it goes deeper than their need for privacy. Believe it or not, birds are more vulnerable to being attacked while cleaning themselves.

The coverage will help protect them from other animals like squirrels, cats, and even hawks that love to eat birds.

Reason #5: The Water In The Bird Bath Is Too Warm

Birds prefer it when you install a bird bath basin in the shade.

The reason: they prefer cool water instead of bathing in or drinking hot water that has been baking in the sun all day long.

Even more important, keeping the basin in the shade will keep the water clean and free of algae contaminants.

Now, some people avoid putting their bird bath in the shade because they don’t want leaves falling in the water. And that’s a valid problem that you’d rather avoid.

How about moving the basin around if it’s light enough? Keep it in the open at cooler times of the day and move it into the shade when the sun’s beaming down the strongest.

Reason #6: The Basin Is Too High Off The Ground

Even though they have wings, birds typically look for their water source on the ground. They drink out of puddles more often than not.

So…

Keeping your bird bath perched high in the air is going to be a major turnoff to your favorite feathered friends. That’s one of the reasons why they might not be using your setup.

Instead, keep it located close to the floor. Because the lower to the ground you place your basin, the happier the local birds will be.

Most pedestals are only 2-3 feet off the ground which is low enough to attract many hometown birds.

Reason #7: The Bird Bath Doesn’t Have A Staging Perch

For the most part, a bird will approach your setup with absolute caution in mind. This is even truer for a brand-new bird bath that the winged creature has never used before.

Do you know what else? Birds love landing on perches like tree branches. If yours is completely left out in the open, there won’t be a perch for the bird to land on.

Make perches more accessible to your feathered friends. Either purposely set up artificial perches or move the basin closer to shrubs or trees to provide natural perches that will ultimately lead birds to the water filled wonderland that you’ve provided them.

Reason #8: The Bird Bath Doesn’t Have A Preening Perch

And speaking of perches…

Birds tend to look for a perch nearby after they’ve finished bathing. They want to use this special place to preen and shake out the water to dry off, remove dirt, and straighten out their feathers.

Is there a perch nearby? If not, this may keep local winged wildlife away from your water filled basin. You have to do a better job creating the proper environment for your favorite friends and adding a preening perch is definitely a great way to get started.

Reason #9: The Water In The Bird Bath Doesn’t Move

Birds love it when water has movement. They enjoy the gurgling, bubbling, and dripping that moving water creates.

Without moving water, backyard birds might avoid your setup altogether.

To prevent this from happening, install a DIY dripper or visit your favorite online retailer to purchase a bubbler, dripper, or mister that uses electricity or solar power.

And if you really want to get crazy, think about adding a small waterfall to really spruce things up!

Reason #10: The Birds Prefer Using A Nearby Hidden Water Source

Is there a hidden water source nearby? Birds in your community may find this source of water more attractive than your backyard setup.

Honestly, unless you can shut down the water source, there really isn’t much that you can do about it. Try moving the bird bath to another location in your yard as far away from the water source as possible. That might help attract some birds more often.

Bird Bath Colors: Discover The Ones Most Attractive To Birds

Plain and simple: birds really prefer to bathe in stone colored bird baths. The best colors for many birds include:

  • Pink and red attract hummingbirds
  • Yellow attracts hummingbirds, warblers, and goldfinches
  • Green, brown, and gray attracts thrushes, quail, and doves
  • Blue attracts jays and bluebirds
  • Orange attracts hummingbirds and Orioles

Why Do Birds Like Taking Baths?

Although this answer isn’t completely known, the main reason studies have discovered is birds need to take baths to properly maintain their feathers.

Think about it…

Feathers are crucial to the lifecycle of a bird. 

Consider the following:

  • They keep them warm and insulated. 
  • They keep them from being soaked with water
  • They grant birds the awesome power of flight

You’d do everything possible to take care of your feathers too. Right? So, it makes sense that birds bathe themselves regularly to properly maintain their feathers.