Bird Watcher's General Store

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Anti-Algae Stuff May be Harmful

Dear Bird Folks,

I saw an ad for this stuff that is supposed to keep the scum and algae out of my birdbath. Do you know anything about it? Do you think it’s safe?

– Don, Barnstable


Hello Don,

Funny you should ask, I have a customer who has been asking me the same questions. She didn’t like my answer, so my guess is you won’t either, but here goes. No, don’t put anything in your birdbath but fresh, clean water. Yeah, yeah I know, after a few days the water looks gross and scummy. So what? Rinse it out and add more fresh water. Remember, we are just talking about tap water. Unless you live in the exclusive parts of the Cape where they have hot and cold running Perrier, tap water is pretty cheap. Using a stiff brush once in a while will help prevent stains from forming in your bath. But even if your bath does stain, relax, stains don’t hurt the birds.

Algae remover, on the other hand, may not be the best to use. Like adding red dye to hummingbird food, ask yourself, do you add algae remover to your drinking water or iced tea? It may be safe or it may be unsafe, but it sure as heck isn’t necessary. And it can be expensive. The company recommends adding a capful once a week, but most birdbaths are empty or need to be changed after a day or two. That’s a lot of capfuls.

So forget the additives, Don, use fresh water and a stiff brush. Then pour yourself a stiff drink of iced tea, and both you and the birds will be better off.