Each year, more people are turning their gardens into wildlife-friendly habitats. A birdbath is one of the most important water features you can add to your garden. Birdbaths may be more important than feeders. Birds can always forage for food, but sometimes water can be harder to find. Birds rely on dependable sources of clean water for drinking and grooming their feathers. Birds preen themselves to remove dirt and parasites. It’s also how they realign their feathers to keep themselves warm and fly more efficiently. Enticing birds into your yard is easy, and as they discover your garden, they’ll attract even more birds.         

When it comes to birdbaths, simpler is better. Traditional birdbaths are made from molded concrete formed into two separate pieces – a bowl and a pedestal. This straightforward design will attract the widest variety of species. A deep bowl with steep sides won’t get much use. Shallow designs work better. Most birds won’t bathe in water that’s deeper than one or two inches. The sides should slope gently to encourage wading into the center. The surface of the bowl should be rough, not glazed. The idea is to mimic natural puddles. Birds won’t walk or perch on slippery surfaces. Place birdbaths near shady trees with open views so birds can spot predators before predators spot them. Make sure they have nearby cover in case they need to make a quick getaway. Most importantly, keep birdbaths away from bushes and other places where cats can hide. According to the National Audubon Society, outdoor cats are the greatest threat to birds, killing 2.4 billion each year in the United States alone. Hummingbirds use birdbaths differently. Since they’re unable to walk, they skim across the surface like dive bombers. They actually prefer to bathe in the rain. Use a mister attached to a garden hose and they won’t have to wait.                      

Keep your birdbaths clean. Change the water frequently. Mosquitoes can breed in standing water in as few as 10 days. The bottom of feeders can quickly become covered in slimy film. Scrub this off with a stiff brush using a 10 percent bleach solution. Be sure to rinse well. 

As your garden grows, think about making it attractive to other wildlife species. How about a butterfly garden? Don’t try to do everything at once. Enjoy the process. A garden evolves over time. Use your backyard to explore the richness and diversity of our Kansas gardens.

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at rnlyes@hotmail.com