Bird Barn logo
Blue Tit with bill submerged in water

How to give birds water

The probability of wild birds sourcing natural water supply is high but leaving out fresh water in the garden will give birds a reason to visit.

Wild birds need water in the summer when sources are dried up, well in the winter it possible there water supply is frozen over. To avoid this, people can leave out fresh water every day in the garden along with the food. Its easy to provide food, but fewer people don't offer water.

How you give birds water can rely on many factors, though the best way would be to setup a bird bath in whatever form suites your garden.

Setting up a bird bath would rely heavily on location and cover; if its in an area close to movement birds won't visit.

Wild birds tend to be skittish, so they would be more reluctant to drink out of bird baths if there's lack of natural cover, so site your bird bath with care.

You could make use of your bird feeding station by setting up a mounted water bowl to the pole if you don't have one already.

If that's not possible you only need to set up a water bowl that is part of a bracket, or hang up a water bowl on a wall or fence bracket.

If you want to be more inventive well avoiding the possibility of water getting contaminated less, then the use of a hanging water dispenser would do the trick.

All it takes is to fill up these rather large water jugs up on a post, bracket or even a tree branch well the water will keep the dish topped up.

Its possible you won't need to setup water in the rainier months, as flat surfaces around the garden gathers water naturally.

In the hot summer months any rain water will soon dry up, so just make sure you keep your choice of water supply topped up, and more importantly, keep it clean.

Bird baths for drinking

If you care enough to setup a bird bath in your garden then you probably care enough to leave out fresh drinking water.

Remember, a fresh supply of water for drinking rather than bathing is more important.

Any commercially available pedestal bird bath will do, and so will the fancier, decorated hanging or ground bird baths.

If it can be filled with a constant supply of water, its good to use for wild birds.

In supplying fresh water in bird baths just make sure its shallow water as to make it easier to drink; if its all deep ends then the birds will find it hard to dip in there bill.

To overcome that issue simply drop in something hard and solid into the water as to be used for a perch, making sure it skims above the water line.

Water dish or bowl

Blue Tit and young perched on water bowl
Blue Tit bringing along her young to feed on this terracotta water dish that blends in beautifully with its natural surroundings in the garden.

When leaving out water in the dish of your bird feeding station pole know that drinking water becomes problematic in regards to staying fresh.

Normally we would suggest positioning the water bowl higher up the pole, but in reality this doesn't work due to the perching birds above, pooping from above into the water.

You can do one of two things, or both. First, setup the water dish/bowl on a feeding pole all to itself, that way there birds won't dirty the water well squabbling over the food.

Secondly, it would be best to forget about the water dish fixed to the pole well instead hanging up a purpose made water dish/bowl on a wall bracket.

Ideally this water supply would be away from the hanging bird feeders but still in an area that is visible and easily accessible to all birds.

Don't make it so the wild birds can gather, try to limit perching area with lack of objects.

Hanging water dispenser

If you wish to feed birds well offering a fresh supply of water all day long, well all setup on the bird feeding station, then the answer is use of a hanging water dispenser.

Essentially, this is an upside down water jug that is designed to allow a small amount of water to be laid out on the dish below at all times.

Its all made possible by trapped air, so well a little spillage will happen well you hang it up, once hanged up and still, it will settle before water lays out on the wish.

Its possible birds can still make a mess on the extended water dish, but it will be reduced dramatically well it can be quickly cleaned up by you if it would to happen.

Water dispensers can get pretty heavy when filled up all the way so wherever you hang it just make sure its a sturdy pole or branch on a tree.

Surfaces around the garden

Sparrow in water puddle
Sparrow making use of a public puddle, so where there's no water build up in your garden, they will simply go elsewhere.

Its quite possible you won't need to setup a water supply at all during the rainy months as surfaces across your garden hold water before evaporating away.

It could be puddles on the ground, guttering, flat shed roof or garden furniture; even small droplets on washing lines or leaves would be possible for wild birds to drink from.

When the weather turns dry in the summer months this normal supply of water disappears, so then its up to you to setup a fresh supply of water in a way that suites you.

And there's no need to buy equipment to do so either, all you need is a rounded or flat bin lid or top of something that would fill up with a bit of water.

It would be up to you to keep it topped up because during the warmest days, it would soon dry up within the hour.

Don't waste this opportunity to top up a continuous supply of water where the wild birds take to, keep it topped up and enjoy them drinking when they arrive back.

Put anything in water?

Absolutely do not put anything in the water where birds feed from. Not only could it be toxic, but in other circumstances it would be extremely bad for there health over time.

On one hand during the cold months people who leave out water for birds in the winter would consider using anti-freeze or similar chemicals to stop the water freezing over.

Don't ever so this, its extremely dangerous to birds and would kill them. If you want to stop the water freezing there's one major tip offered by the RSPB.

They recommend leaving a ball floating around in the water as to stop the water ever settling, and as the ball moves around in the littlest of wind, the water can't freeze up.

If that's not possible, just keep a close eye on the water source and top up with hot water.

Another thing people want to do is use sugar in water, and well this will never replace the nutrients contained in nectar, its not recommended.

If your attracting wild birds to your garden with bird food and a water supply, small British garden birds that shouldn't ever be drinking sugar water, just might give it ago.

So don't put sugar in drinking water for wild birds, as it will counter-act the supply of fresh water they must be drinking only.

Keep it clean

When topping up water for birds to drink you're solely responsible for keeping that water supply clean and healthy.

Water left out for birds can quickly get dirty with bird droppings or feathers, which in turn can leave to the spreading of deceases in there water supply.

Worst still, if water supplies never get cleaned out, birds just won't use it knowing its not suitable.

Don't skimp in your duties by scooping out any debris or feathers; pour out the water before refilling it with fresh water.

That really only applies to water left out in the open, hanging water dispensers could still get messy in the dish, it not as nearly as bad as open water supplies.

If you don't use a water dish or dispenser at all but rather rely on natural water sources around your garden, then its not your responsibility to make sure its left clean.

But do try to be responsible by making sure areas where water gathers are clean up so birds can stop by anytime for a drink.


If you weren't to rely on bought wild bird water dishes or dispensers, then your garden should offer natural water, but this relies on rain water only.

If its not raining every day but you wish to watch birds drinking from the usual areas in your garden, just make sure you fill it up yourself.

During the warmer months when shallow water spots dry up within the hour, you'll need to keep it filled up quite often.

Birds baths are perfectly suited for retaining water and likewise, can be used for drinking or bathing in, but the primary use is for drinking.

If not carefully positioned with lack of cover, its hard to gets birds to use the bird bath.

However, you can avoid that trouble by investing in a water dish or bowl for wild birds, better still a hanging water dispenser will require less maintenance.

Setting up a mounted bird bowl on the bird feeding station will soon get contaminated with filth, well a separate water supply on a wall bracket would be more significant.

What we would recommend is the use of a wild bird water dispenser; these usual upside down jugs allow pockets of water to keep the tray filled up, well slowly releasing water as the birds drink it up.

Little water is wasted well using dispensiders, well the possibility of contamination is limited, if not at all possible.

Share this article: