Do Birdbaths Need To Be Elevated? (ANSWERED! + Table)


If you’re like me, sitting facing my backyard and thinking to myself: ‘should I elevate my bird bath?’ Then you’re in luck! I was also really curious about the world of bird baths and their recommended elevation; so I did a ton of research on this topic if I were to purchase one for myself – so you don’t have to. Here’s what I found:

Bird baths need to be elevated to keep them out of reach from cats and other predators. The height elevation for bird baths should be about 2 – 3 feet high. Using both elevated and ground-level bird baths in combination can attract different bird species such as chickadees and robins respectively.

Bird bath elevation can really make it or break your bird bath attraction game, and I’m sure we all want to make fewer mistakes right? Read on more as I dive deeper into the importance of bird bath elevation, the optimal bird bath height, and the respective bird species that they attract!

The Importance Of Elevating Your Bird Bath

As mentioned earlier, whether or not you choose to elevate your bird bath can really affect how well you attract birds to use them. This all stems from understanding the importance of elevating your bird bath. Here are some reasons why:

1. Elevating A Bird Bath Keeps Cats and Other Predators Away

Not elevating your bird bath can be a devastating mistake for new backyard birders trying to set up a bird bath for the first time in their backyard. This is because a bird bath at the ground level can attract other animals such as home cats, stray cats, and feral cats to the site.

Cats are known to be one of the most notorious creatures that kill birds estimated to be around 30 – 80 million around the world. [1]

In fact, on average, a cat kills two animals per week, according to the Wildlife Society and the American Bird Conservancy in North America. Cats are elusive and will take advantage of the easy access to birds in backyards. Not only cats, but other animals such as snakes or rats can also gain access to ground-level bird baths too!

Moreover, when birds are bathing in a bird bath, they are vulnerable as their wings are wet, and as such, they are not able to escape from predators easily. This makes them an easy target for these backyard predators.

Beyond just predators, placing a bird bath that isn’t elevated also invites critters that can’t climb, to use the bath too. If more animals share such a precious water resource, the chances of a bird feeling safe enough to use it will decrease too. I mean, if you set out a bird bath, you’ll want birds to use it and not other animals, right?

2. Different Bird Species Are Attracted To Different Bird Bath Heights

Of course, elevating bird baths will invite fewer predators, but in actual fact, bird baths in their natural context are small streams at ground level, where birds will be exposed to natural predators. But, of course, you’ll want a safe environment for birds to gather in your bird bath, unlike natural environments.

Does this mean that elevating a bird bath will be the answer to a perfect bird bath? Not really! In fact, different bird species are attracted to different bird bath heights. Backyard birds that are larger in size and ground-feeder birds prefer to use bird baths that are at ground levels, whereas smaller birds prefer higher heights so they are able to spot predators more easily.

This means that if you intend to attract a particular type of bird species, you will need to check out its size, then plan your bird bath height. I have compiled a table for you to do this easily below, with some pros and cons of different heights:

Bird Bath HeightSize Of Birds AttractedExamples of Bird Species AttractedProsCons
Low/ground level- elevation (<1 ft.)Larger birds and ground feedersCardinals, blue jays, robins, blackbirds, thrushes– Easy to deploy with a simple flat bowl of water
– Attracts larger birds
– Easy to maintain
– Higher chance of predation
– Can get congested and shared among too many animals
Mid-elevation (2 – 3 ft.)Both large and small birdsFinches, blue jays, robins, thrushes, cardinals, tits, sparrows, chickadees, blackbirds– Most pedestal bird baths are of this height
– Attracts the most variety of birds
– Moderate level of predation
High-elevation (> 3 ft.)Small birdsFinches, wrens, chickadees– Less chance of predation– Low chance of attracting most bird species
– If too high, it can be difficult to reach and maintain

The Optimal Height For A Bird Bath

So you may now ask the question: what is the best height for my bird bath? Well, that depends on what kind of birds you would want to attract, and your preference of the type of bird bath, and how well you can keep predators out of your bird bath.

The optimal height for a bird bath that can attract the most number of birds and have a moderate level of predation would be at a mid-elevation of 2 – 3 ft. off the ground. This is also the same height as most pedestal bird baths that you see on the market and in stores, so you won’t need to make tweaks after purchasing one.

Different Bird Bath Types And Their Respective Heights

Now that you’re informed on the different bird bath heights and their respective pros and cons, you probably already have a particular bird bath height in mind. That being said, if you already have an old bird bath or happen to have one lying around, I would suggest that get started with setting your bird bath.

However, if at this stage, you haven’t yet purchased a bird bath, let me run you through some examples of bird baths with respect to their elevation so you attract as many birds as you can! Here are some bird bath types (according to height) you can consider and their respective heights to help you select your desired bird bath:

Bird Bath TypeHeightExample of Bird Bath (Amazon links)ProsCons
HangingHigh-elevation (> 3ft.)BYER OF MAINE Circles Hanging Bird Bath– High and away from predators and other animals– Sways too much in windy places
PedestalMid-elevation (2 – 3 ft.)World Source East Pedestal Bird Bath– Long-lasting
– Most are optimal height
– Stable
– Higher costs
– Moderate number of predators can access it
StakedLow to Mid-elevation (1 – 3 ft.)Evergreen Blue Sea Glass Metal Stake Bird Bath– Aesthetic look
– Most are optimal height
– Can be easily toppled over
– Moderate number of predators can access it
MountedMid to high-elevation (>2 ft.)Gray Bunny Detachable Mounted Bird Bath– Stable
– Customizable mounting height
– Requires another object/stake to be mounted on
GroundLow/ground level- elevation (<1 ft.)Wildlife World Ground Bird Bath– Very stable
– Good as water source for multiple animals
– Can be made DIY-style
– Birds are be vulnerable to land predators

Caveat for the above table: I’m going to assume that the height of the bird baths is going to be the same as the elevation that you’re going to place your bird bath at (for pedestal, staked, and ground bird baths). This means that if you get a pedestal bird bath, it will be placed on the ground, where the height of the bird bath = elevation off the ground.

What Bird Bath Setup I Would Recommend:

After learning about all this information on bird baths, their heights and so on, I’ve come to conclusion for myself and it’s what I recommend to you: Try setting BOTH a ground-level and a pedestal level bird bath if possible!

Here’s how I plan and envision my setup to be like:

By setting up both in combination, you can allow for land animals, predators, and larger birds to enjoy the water source at the ground level, AND also for smaller birds to enjoy the safer elevation of a pedestal bird bath. You can do the same by DIY-ing your own ground-level bird bath and purchasing one pedestal bird bath!

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you would have found the answer to your question on whether bird baths need to be elevated; they do! However, you need to take into consideration the caveats of doing so and choose what’s best for your situation and budget. I hope this article has been useful too, as it is was for me when I was researching this topic. Thanks for reading and I wish you success in setting up your bird bath and attracting lots of birds to it. That’s all for today, happy birding!

References

  1. Loss, S., Will, T. & Marra, P. The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States. Nat Commun 4, 1396 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms2380

Justin

Justin is a hobbyist birder that hopes to share his birding knowledge with the world. His favorite bird is the Large-tailed Nightjar and he really loves potato chips!

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