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Can Birds Drink Tap Water From a Bird Bath?


23rd February 2023

Last Updated: 19th June 2023

A few summer days without rain and our lawns quickly turn brown, remember when this happens our birds and wildlife will be thirsty too.

Tap water is safe to use, although if you prefer, or live in a highly chlorinated area, leave tap water to stand in a watering can for a couple of hours or use a hose with a spray nozzle to help the chlorine dissipate quickly. 

Why do birds need water?

All the birds and mammals visiting our gardens require a reliable source of fresh water. Being a temperate land, our wildlife have not evolved to cope with long dry spells and need to constantly replace the fluid lost through sweating, respiration and in their droppings.

Birds have the benefit of flight to help them cover large distances seeking out water but many of our mammals do not have that luxury. Additional challenges are moving from their normal territories, wildlife risk death or injury, for example on our roads in their hunt for water.

Providing a low sided dish or low bird bath topped up daily with clean water will provide the fluid the birds and animals need to maintain good health without the hazards.

Do birds use bird baths to bathe?

In addition to needing to drink daily, our birds and mammals need to bath regularly to keep their fur and feathers in prime condition and keep pests and parasites such as fleas and mites under control. By washing in water dirt and debris can be more easily removed and the effect of damping also activates the oil from hair and feather glands that will keep insulating layers dry and outer coats weatherproof.

Where should you put a bird bath?

There are many ways to make sure water is always available in the garden. A small (or large) pond with shallow sloping sides can ensure water is constantly available even while you are away on holidays etc. Putting out stable shallow sided dishes and birdbaths under the shade of a tree or shrub will provide small mammals such as hedgehogs and squirrels quick easy access and a hanging bird bath, hung from a tree or on a pedestal, will allow birds to drink and bathe in a safe place where they can keep their eyes open for dangers.

Providing more than one source of water and at different heights will allow more wildlife to access it and make your garden more attractive to a greater diversity of wildlife.

Give the bird bath / drinking station a good clean regularly as bacteria can be transmitted if allowed to build up.

How can you stop bird baths freezing in the winter

In the winter, it’s important to stop your bird bath from freezing, so that garden birds can still access water. A simple method is to place a small plastic ball in the bird bath which will move back and forth, preventing the water from freezing.

You can also purchase Ice Free, a natural, eco-friendly and safe solution that slows the freezing process down to a temperature of -4°C, keeping water in liquid form for longer.

External sources/references

Can garden birds drink tap water?

Yes, birds can safely drink tap water. If it can be consumed by humans, it’s generally safe for birds too.

How do you clean a bird bath?

It’s vital to regularly clean bird baths to prevent the spread of diseases and to remove dirty water. 

To clean out your bird bath, start by emptying the water inside — making sure not to pour it where birds may continue to drink from it. Then, remove as much dirt and debris as you can using a high-pressure hose and a stiff brush.

You can also use specially-formulated cleaners for bird baths, just make sure to thoroughly rinse the bird bath out afterwards.

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