Home & Garden Garden What Is a Solar Birdbath Fountain? And how do birds respond to one? By David M. Kuchta David M. Kuchta Writer Wesleyan University, University of California, Berkeley David Kuchta, Ph.D. has 10 years of experience in gardening and has read widely in environmental history and the energy transition. An environmental activist since the 1970s, he is also a historian, author, gardener, and educator. Learn about our editorial process Published June 23, 2022 krblokhin/Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email Home & Garden Planting Guides Indoor Gardening Urban Farms Insects In This Article Expand How It Works Benefits How Do Birds Respond? Frequently Asked Questions Birds need clean water to drink and bathe in. Solar-powered fountains added to birdbaths are better at attracting birds and keeping their water cleaner. In this case, what's good for birds is good for humans, too. Solar fountains reduce the likelihood of a birdbath becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes, water-borne pests, and foul-smelling bacteria or algae. Learn how solar birdbath fountains work and how they benefit your neighborhood birds. How Does a Solar Birdbath Fountain Work? A solar birdbath fountain is a regular birdbath fitted with a solar panel. The collected solar energy runs a fountain pump that circulates the water in the birdbath. Some solar birdbath fountains come with lithium-ion batteries to store electricity so that the fountain runs when the solar panels are not collecting energy. Some may also come with LED lights for nighttime appeal. Some birdbaths come with internal solar panels, but external solar fountains can also be purchased separately and added to most birdbaths. An internal solar panel is either built into the fountain itself or designed to float in or on top of the water. An external solar panel is attached to the fountain by wiring so that the solar panel can be placed where sunshine is the strongest even if the birdbath is placed in a shadier spot. Benefits of a Solar Birdbath Fountain Saint4xo / Getty Images As with all things solar, the solar panels only collect energy when there is sufficient sunshine. But when they do, they run a fountain with zero-emissions electricity. Solar birdbath fountains can stand alone, without the need for an external source of electricity. No wiring or plumbing is needed, which means they can be placed anywhere—and in smaller spaces. And by not relying on an external power source, a solar fountain will add nothing to your electricity bill and will continue to work in a power outage. Mosquitoes do not lay their eggs in moving water. Stagnant water also fosters the growth of bacteria and algae, which can harm birds' health. Cyanobacteria (“blue-green algae”) can end up festering in stagnant water, carried in by the wind, by rainfall, and by birds themselves. When it blooms in increasingly frequent heat waves, it can be fatal to birds. The constantly recycling water in a birdbath fountain needs to be changed less regularly, making it a more sustainable solution, especially in dry regions. A birdbath with a fountain provides benefits to humans as well. The sight of birds playing in the water is delightful, but even without birds, the relaxing sound of moving water can enhance a patio or backyard environment. DIY Solar Birdbath Fountains You don't need to buy an all-in-one solar birdbath fountain. Any portable solar panel can be attached to a fountain pump and added to a birdbath. A relatively inexpensive floating solar fountain can also be purchased separately and placed in many free-standing birdbaths. How Do Birds Respond? Birds detect moving water better than still water, so a fountain will attract birds more easily. They are also more likely to visit a birdbath that allows them to properly bathe. With a solar birdbath fountain, the water can be shallower, no more than two inches deep. This allows birds to bathe and preen more easily than in deeper water. Birds need all the help they can get. Around 30% of birds face significant losses in all of North America's habitats: coastlines, deserts, forests, arctic tundra, grasslands, and wetlands. While bird species are adaptive, and many species are now seen in more northern regions, they cannot adapt fast enough to outpace climate change. Birdbaths allow birds to remove parasites, debris, and dust from their feathers, keeping them healthier at a time when they need us more than ever. A solar birdbath fountain is a way to use emissions-free solar energy to do your part in protecting birds. Frequently Asked Questions How do I clean a solar birdbath fountain? Use a scrub brush to clean with a solution of one part white vinegar or bleach to nine parts water, then rinse thoroughly with water, preferably from a hose. Let the birdbath dry in the sun to break down any remaining vinegar or bleach, then refill the birdbath. You can also add bird-safe enzymes to the water to keep algae from growing. Clean the pump as well as the birdbath. Solar panels can be wiped clean with a soft cloth. Does a solar birdbath heat up the water? No. Solar panels absorb the sun's energy and convert it to electricity, not heat. To heat water, a separate solar-powered water heater is needed. Where should I place a solar birdbath? Keep a birdbath at least 10 feet away from shrubs where a cat might hide. A bird with wet feathers is heavier and needs more time to escape the clutches of a cat or other predator.Place a birdbath with an external solar panel near or underneath a tree, so that birds can perch nearby. Place a birdbath with an internal solar panel in a sunny area but near a safe place to perch. View Article Sources Curren, Emily, and Sandric Chee Yew Leong. “Natural and anthropogenic dispersal of cyanobacteria: a review” Hydrobiologia 847 (2020), 2801–2822. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-020-04286-y; Stewart, Ian, et al. “Cyanobacterial poisoning in livestock, wild mammals and birds – an overview” in Hudnell, H. Kenneth, Abel Lajtha, and Rodolfo Paoletti. Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science and Research Needs. New York: Springer, 2008, 613–638; Jöhnk, Klaus D., et al. “Summer heatwaves promote blooms of harmful cyanobacteria” Global Change Biology 14 (2008), 495–512. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2007.01510.x. Rosenberg, Kenneth V., et al. “Decline of the North American avifauna” Science 366:6461 (19 September 2019), 120–124. 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