These are the three elements to attracting wildlife. Most people begin with the food by putting up a feeder or two and food is a big attractant. Often the next step is adding a water feature. Water features can range from the complex and expensive to the simple and inexpensive.

I remember my uncle and I used to sit in his back yard. He had put in an elevated waterfall fountain where the water tumbled down like water in a mountain spring to a small sunken pond. On warm summer days when I went to visit, we would sit on the patio and visit. There was never a day when birds and squirrels would not come and drink and play. Birds and animals like moving water. Fountains like this are often over a thousand dollars to put in but they are very attractive. If you have that kind of time and money, they can be very restful.

At the other end of the spectrum is the simple and inexpensive. By inexpensive I mean up to about 25o dollars give or take. Within that range there are a variety of prefabricated bird baths. You can find all kinds of designs and imprints on these. This spring my local mega grocer was selling ceramic baths for about 45 dollars and they had small reservoir fountains for 100 to 200 dollars. My favorite local nursery was selling plain cast concrete, without any embellishments, for 45 to 65 dollars. Simple bird baths like this will weather and soften over time or they can be painted with a non-toxic paint to liven any garden. At 45 dollars each, it is not out of range for most people and you can easily arrange several bird baths at different heights to create a little oasis.

If you need to go simpler and less expensive than that, an 18 inch diameter terra-cotta pot tray on an up turned pot or cinderblock cashes out at about 20 dollars. It meets all of the requirements of a good bird bath. It is not too deep and not too shallow. The terra-cotta is not too slippery to walk on, unlike some of the fancier ceramics and glass. It is easy to dump the water out for cleaning because it isn’t too heavy. The rim of the tray is just the right thickness for perching birds to stand on for drinking. If it gets broken, it is crushable as pot filler for drainage and cheap to replace. To hide the simpleness of it, set several at different heights and plant around them to hide the bases.

What to look for in a good bird bath. It should be about 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep at the deepest in the center or it should have shallower tiered shoulders for small birds to stand on. Large birds, like grackles and pigeons, can handle water up to 4 inches deep but that is far too deep for the wee ones. It should have some texture to the material so that birds will not slip on the edges. Fancy glass bird baths  are lovely to look at but imagine having to balance on tiny feet along the sides and edge of one. A narrow rim for perching is good too. The larger birds don’t mind baths too near to the ground, other birds prefer a height of about 2 to 3 feet off the ground. If you have a ornemental bird bath that is deeper than a couple of inches in the center, you can place a brick or two or some river rock in the middle to make it shallower. Birds like moving water and mosquitoes don’t; for a little money you can buy attachments to your hose to drip water into the bath or solar operated vibrators that sit in the bird bath and cause disturbance to the water. This will bring the birds in and discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs. Finally, birds are territorial, placing more than one water feature in different parts of your yard will draw in larger numbers of birds.

Water is a major attractant to birds and wildlife. It doesn’t have to break the bank to have a simple attractive bird bath and frankly, the birds don’t care what it looks like. They just want the water.

What’s in your garden?