If you hope to attract birds with water, active splashes and moving water will pique the interest of the greatest number of species, and many birders have discovered the advantages of solar bird baths to do just that.
What Are Solar Bird Baths?
A solar bird bath design includes a moving water element such as a fountain, spray or waterfall that is powered through solar energy rather than wired electricity. A relatively smaller solar cell or integrated panel is used to supply power to the bird bath, therefore eliminating the need for cords, outlets and wires. Water is recycled through a central reservoir to be circulated through the movement feature continuously, so long as the sunshine is sufficient to supply adequate power.
Solar Bath Designs
Solar baths have a wide variety of designs and can be made of different materials such as resin, plastic, metal or ceramic. Both pedestal and ground bird baths are available, though pedestals are more popular for solar designs because the slight elevation will help keep the bath free of ground debris that may obscure the solar cell.
The solar cell to power the bird bath can be mounted in two ways. Most solar bird fountains have the power cell located directly in the water basin (clear water will not obstruct the solar panel). A few designs, however, have short wires that connect an external solar cell to the bird bath, which allows a bit more flexibility in placing the solar cell a short distance away from the actual bath.
The aesthetic aspects – size, carvings, color, shape, etc. – of solar bath designs vary widely, yet there are relatively few overall designs that remain popular. The most common solar bird bath designs are:
- Single basins with spray, fountain or bubbling spigots
- Two-tiered basins with a central fountain and cascading streams
- Multi-tiered waterfall designs with faux rocks, pots or similar objects
Pros and Cons of Solar Bird Baths
When deciding whether or not a solar powered fountain is best for your backyard birds, it is important to consider the pros and cons of solar designs.Pros of a solar bird bath:
- Does not require electricity to run and does not affect utility charges
- Lack of cords or wiring gives greater convenience for placement
- Moving water is more effective at attracting birds and minimizing mosquitoes
- Requires full sunlight for adequate operation and cannot be placed in the shade
- Requires more frequent refills due to full sunlight positioning and higher evaporation
- Cannot be run dry without risk of damaging the pump
- May be more delicate and difficult to clean without damage to the solar cell
- Not typically suitable for winter use due to risk of cold and freezing damage
While it may seem that the cons of a solar bath far outweigh the pros, for many backyard birders the ability to place a solar bath without the need for an electrical outlet and the advantage of a fountain attracting greater numbers of birds are far more substantial than the negative considerations.
Buying a Solar Bath
When buying a solar powered bird bath, always try to see specific models in operation. The strength of the fountain, the power of the solar cell and the action of the moving water are all crucial factors in whether or not birds will visit the bath. Solar bird baths are typically more expensive than unpowered or corded baths, and it is wise to thoroughly investigate purchase options before committing to buy a bath. At the same time, investigate return or refund policies in case the bath does not perform adequately for your backyard.
Solar bird baths can be difficult to find, though wild bird stores, landscaping nurseries and garden centers may have limited designs available. Online retailers also offer a range of solar powered bird bath designs to choose from.
For many birders, adding a water feature to the backyard is the ultimate achievement for bird-friendly landscaping. When a custom waterfall or large pond is not an option, a solar bird bath can be a great alternative that is suitable for any sunny backyard.
Photo – Solar Panels © Oregon Department of Transportation