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On-Ground Birdbaths – How To Pick The Perfect Birdbath


On-ground birdbaths closely resemble natural sources of water, and therefore get more action than any other type of bath.

Woodpeckers, for instance, are unable to perch on the rims of pedestal baths (unless the rim is especially wide) due to the two-toes-forward and two-toes-back design of their feet, so this is the bath they gravitate to.

It’s quite a sight to see these birds land nearby on the ground and hop on over to the bath. Thrashers, towhees and cardinals are ground feeding birds by nature and therefore feel right at home in a ground level bath.

Smaller birds, such as warblers, probably feel safer in a ground level bath since they can easily jump back to the security of the ground. It’s important that the inner surface of the bath not be too slick so the birds have a secure footing (think of yourself in a slippery bathtub.).

For an alternative to buying a ready-made on-ground bath, you can secure a upside-down garbage can lid in a depression in the ground or use an attractive terra-cotta saucer. With a little landscaping, these inexpensive alternatives can be made to look very natural and attractive at a very low cost.

A ground level birdbath, with dripper or waterfall, may be the best way to encourage more and different birds to visit your yard.


Why do birds like on-ground birdbaths?

On-ground bird baths are commonly used, and birds love them. Here’s why:

  • Natural behavior: Many bird species are naturally ground-dwellers and feel more comfortable accessing water at ground level. Ground-level bird baths mimic natural water sources like puddles, shallow pools, or the edges of lakes and streams.
  • Safety: Birds are more vulnerable to predators when bathing or drinking, and having a ground-level bird bath allows them to quickly escape to nearby cover, such as bushes or low vegetation, in case of danger.
  • Visibility: Ground-level bird baths provide better visibility for birds to detect potential threats. Elevated bird baths might expose them to predators from above, making them feel less secure.
  • Easy access: Some bird species, especially ground-feeding birds like sparrows, doves, and thrushes, find it more convenient to access water at ground level. This is particularly true for birds that forage for food on the ground.
  • Shallow depth: Ground-level bird baths are often shallow, resembling natural puddles. Many birds prefer shallow water for bathing, and these types of bird baths cater to their bathing habits.
  • Sparrows and doves: Ground-feeding birds like sparrows and doves, which are common visitors to bird baths, are more likely to use on-ground sources due to their feeding habits.
  • Natural instinct: Birds have evolved to associate certain behaviors with specific environmental cues. Ground-level water sources may trigger a more instinctive response in birds to approach and use them.
  • Insect attraction: Ground-level bird baths can attract insects, which, in turn, can draw insect-eating birds to the area.

To attract a diverse range of birds to your garden, it’s a good idea to provide both ground-level and hanging bird baths. This way, you accommodate the preferences of different bird species and offer a variety of options for them to access water based on their natural behaviors.


You need to know…

  • Freezing water can damage on-ground baths, but they are generally less likely to be damaged than concrete or metal birdbaths.
  • Dripper lines to the baths can be damaged in freezing weather.
  • Most are resin-based and maintain an attractive appearance for a long time.
  • Generally easy to clean and maintain.


How to choose a bird bath?

Here are some pointers to help you choose the right bird bath:

  • Size: Choose a bird bath that is large enough to accommodate different bird species but not too deep that it poses a drowning risk. A shallow depth (1-2 inches) is ideal to attract a variety of birds.
  • Material: Pick a bird bath that is made out of durable materials. Common materials include ceramic, glass, concrete, plastic, and metal. Ceramic and concrete provide stability, but glass and metal bird baths can be more decorative.
  • Placement: Place the bird bath in a location that is visible to you but provides some cover for the birds, such as near shrubs or trees. Ensure there’s a clear line of sight for the birds to detect predators.
  • Easy to clean: Choose a bird bath that is easy to clean to prevent algae and diseases. Consider one with a removable basin for convenient cleaning.
  • Heating element (optional): If you live in a colder climate, consider a bird bath with a heating element to prevent the water from freezing in winter.
  • Style: Select a design that complements your garden aesthetics. Consider decorative elements that can add visual appeal, such as intricate patterns or bird-themed designs.
  • Levels: Some bird baths have multiple levels or tiers, providing different depths for birds of various sizes.
  • Circulation: A bird bath with a gentle water circulation system can attract more birds and prevent stagnant water.
  • Accessibility: Ensure the bird bath has textured surfaces or shallow areas that allow birds to grip easily.
  • Safety: Avoid bird baths with sharp edges or intricate designs that may pose a hazard to birds.
  • Budget: Consider your budget, as bird baths come in a wide range of prices. However, prioritize quality and features that enhance bird safety and enjoyment.

See other types: Pedestal Birdbaths | Hanging Birdbaths

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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