Water for bathing
Water to bathe in is just as important for birds, especially in winter. It is essential that they keep their feathers in good condition. Bathing is an important part of feather maintenance. Dampening the feathers loosens the dirt and makes their feathers easier to preen.
When preening, birds carefully rearrange the feathers and spread oil from the preen gland so they remain waterproof and trap an insulating layer of air underneath to keep them warm.
The location of your garden and the type of vegetation immediately around it will determine what birds will visit your bird bath, and in what numbers. Siting of the bath is very important – birds will only use it if they feel safe. Birds get excited and pre-occupied about bathing, and tend to be more vulnerable than at other times.
Make sure birds have clear visibility as they bathe, with bushes or trees nearby to provide cover if alarmed, and perches to use when preening. Ensure cats cannot use the cover to attack bathing birds. You can do this by placing a thick layer of clippings from thorny vegetation, such as rose or pyracantha, beneath the bushes. Try placing the bath at different points around the garden to find the most popular site.
During droughts birds will try to use water barrels or drinking troughs. Sadly, many drown. If these containers cannot be covered, they can be made safer if a plank of wood or a branch is placed in the water so that birds can land, drink and even partially bathe in safety.