This Satellite Dish Is for the Birds




Have you ever wondered how many unused satellite dishes are floating around aimlessly out there? After being disconnected, they seem to have no apparent function other than occupying valuable storage space and being mostly ugly? The object of this exercise is to offer a simple way to make an environmentally friendly use of one of the thousands of satellite dishes that have found their way into the landfills, attics and garages of those who have had their service disconnected.

The satellite companies typically require the user to return the receiver but to leave the dish and its hardware behind. For those who have access to the removal of this unsightly hardware, here is a garden friendly way to put it to use as a free, rugged, and weather resistant birdbath. Keep in mind that if you plan to install it on a tree you will have to fiddle around a bit to find a level spot to secure it and you may even need to use wooden blocks or shims in extreme cases. The idea is to keep it reasonably level to allow water to seek its own level in a more or less uniform way.

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Step 1: Sneak Preview of the Finished Project

Will the first bird lusting for a bath please speak up!

To arrive at this last stage in the project please press on to the next step!

Step 2: Tools and Stuff

You will need a few standard tools and at least one can of spray paint of your choosing. I chose to use camouflage base flat enamel because it is going to be bolted to a lovely pine tree in my back yard and I wanted it to blend in with its surroundings and be most visible only to the birds. The inside of the dish may be coated with swimming pool paint to reduce algae buildup, but this is optional. It need only be a non-toxic paint. The dish will need to be cleaned regularly in any case.

Step 3: Lag Bolts, Washers, Etc.

You will need at least 5 of these two-inch long 1/4 inch lag bolts with washers as shown. If, like me, you plan to bolt it to a nice large tree, these bolts should work just fine and will not harm the tree. Non-corrosive steel/galvanized or stainless steel would be your best choice. NOTE: Do not use any other material, especially copper, because it can damage the tree. Otherwise it is all up to your own best judgment. Hex head bolts are the easiest to install using either a socket wrench or a rechargeable drill and socket. You may want to drill shallow pilot holes first to make the task easier and to be more gentle with the tree.

Step 4: Removing the Mounting Post

Working on the assembled unit is awkward as long as the mounting post in place. Temporarily removing the mounting post allows easier access for working on the dish mechanism. Loosen both bolts as shown just enough to allow the mounting post to slide out of its housing. Set it aside and begin the next step.

Step 5: Removing Adjustment Bolts, Etc.

Remove each of the two adjustment bolts located on either side of the housing.
This allows the dish angle to be changed for initial approximate straight up positioning.
The pivot bolt will need to be slightly loosened to adjust the angle and then re-tightened. This adjustment is only temporary and will be more accurately achieved once the assembly is mounted to final surface.

Note: There are also two adjustment bolts located at the bottom of the mounting post. These can also be removed and the nearby pivot bolt loosened slightly to allow temporary adjustment later in the procedure.

Step 6: Removing the LNB Device

The LNB feed device needs to be removed. Incidentally this is the only part of the assembly that cannot readily be used in this particular project. A pair of standard pliers and a 3/8 socket will work best for this removal task. Set the LNB device aside and hope that you can find a place to either recycle it, sell it on eBay, or locate someone who needs it. They typically sell on eBay for an average of about $12.00 depending, of course, on the type of device you have.

Step 7: All the Components

The entire assembly is shown here in its various parts.

Step 8: Aligning the Mounting Post

Re-install and align the mounting post with the approximate center of the feed bracket assembly before tightening it. This can easily be re-adjusted when mounted on the final surface.

Step 9: Loosening the Pivot Bolts

You can also loosen the pivot bolt on the bottom of the mounting post and remove its two adjustment bolts. Again, this can all be re-adjusted when the assembly is mounted to the final surface.

Step 10: The Upright Configuration

It is easier to more or less align everything in the upright configuration, as it will be look on the final surface mounting, but all adjustments can be changed later as needed.

Step 11: Sealing Against Leaks

This step may or may not be necessary, since the dish is going to be painted and any water leaks should be sealed by the paint job. However, I decided to include this step since I performed it on my own installation and it is relatively easy.

First, find some good quality silicone sealant. RTV compound is a quality type, but there are many others. When you loosen each nut hold it firmly against the dish with one hand to allow room for the silicone to be squeezed under the flat side of the bolt with the other hand holding the tube of sealer. Ensure that the flat side of the bolt is flush with the dish before beginning to tighten the nut. You can hold the bolt in place with a screw driver blade pressing on the flat side while the nut is being tightened.

Proceed to the next nut and perform the same procedure. I found that this is either a two handed or a two person operation and may require a bit of patience. Wipe off all excessive sealer using a damp rag. NOTE: Silicone sealer can be an irritant, so be careful when handling it. Allow to dry overnight.

Step 12: Details on Sealing the Special Bolts

Note that each of the four bolts has a flat head, which conforms to the inside surface of the dish. The bolt is unique in that it is square and fits into a square hole in the surface of the dish. It is easy to place the bolt in the incorrect position when tightening it.

It must be seated inside the square hole before tightening. It can then be tightened and another bolt loosened using the same procedure as mentioned in the previous step.

Step 13: A Completed Seal

Here is an example of a completed seal. It will soon be covered with paint, but it is best to level off the silicone as much as possible before it sets.

Step 14: Ready for the Paint Job

The pine tree in the background is going to be the recipient of this birdbath. The temp gauge will have to go! At this stage you should have the spray paint ready, along with rags and a bit of paint thinner for cleanup. I used an old blue tarp as a table covering, but a painter's drop cloth would work out just as well or better.

Step 15: The Finished Item

Here is the final camo paint job. Notice the total absence of any paint on the tarp. I'd like to thank Adobe PhotoShop for this little miracle!

Step 16: The Final Step

Here is the final installation without help from PhotoShop. At least not on the birdbath nor the tree but I did clean up the door on my old shed a wee bit. NOTE: Speaking of cleaning up, be sure and remove all of the hardware if and when you ever plan to relocate.

Good luck with this fun project!

1 Person Made This Project!


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25 Discussions


3 years ago

I followed your instructions now all my neighbors want one!


10 years ago on Introduction

You want to damage trees in order bathe birds?? How environmentally friendly is that? Please find some other way to fasten the dish to the tree, for example by wrapping flat webbing around it. This is so serious a concern that I'm recommending to the website that this Instructable be flagged until fixed.

10 replies

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

*sigh* What on earth would you say to a child that builds a treehouse? What about woodpeckers and other boring animals, I suppose they were here first so their holes don't matter? I'm an avid nature lover but you're being a bit ridiculous in my opinion...


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

1. You don't have to put holes in a tree to build a treehouse. 2. It's interesting that you seem to consider woodpeckers your moral superiors and therefore take your lead from them. 3. An "avid nature lover" doesn't wantonly destroy a tree without considering the consequences and when harmless alternatives are so easily available. 4. Using words like "*sigh" and "ridiculous" are ad hominem and are not substitutes for rational argument.

Trees are very strong and resilient. I've seen trees grow around metal fence poles, live with streetlights mounted to them 30 years ago, and absorb chain link fence into them. The tree will be just fine.

Actually, it's only the strong and resilient ones we see. The ones that don't make it rot away and disappear. It's like saying people must not die because you never see any dead people walking around.


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

uhhhhh your computer is probably inside a building made out of chopped up trees. flat webbing is probably made out of plastic which kills the ozone. and also it wouldn't work. I didn't recycle a pop can today. As far as the bird feeder it still looks like a satellite mounted on a tree when no birds are around. No HOA I assume.


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

You must have got patchouli in your eyes making you a less than effective hippie: This guy is a chronic fastener of objects to trees!!! in step 14 there is a thermometer nailed to the tree too. Now I'm going to report this thread too!!!


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

So let me get this straight -- because trees (sustainably harvested under law) are used for construction it's okay for this guy to recommend destroying any tree he wants to? Makes perfect sense. Thanks for your insight.


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

no it dosent it would damage a tree to stick a giant bolt through it .its fine using small scres on a healtyh tree


5 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for posting! I just had 2 rotted out dish antennas replaced and they are now sitting in my driveway. Seemed a waste to toss them. Time to grind off the rust and put them back into service! The bird bath idea is a good one. We have lots of feathered friends around here.
BTW, bruc33ef, Trees are alive only on the outermost cambium layer just under the bark. Putting a couple screws into a tree will not cause irreparable damage. The tree will simply re-route nutrients around the hardware. :) A worse method would be to wire the object around the tree, because that would choke off nutrients as the tree grows into the wire. hmansfield's method is perfectly safe for the tree. If extra holes are made and not used, seal them with tar or roofing paint to keep bugs out.

For those of you who want to remove the hardware if relocating the bath...remember that every hole left is an open invitation to wood borers, which can and will destroy the tree. Probably best to leave the screws and nails where they are.


10 years ago on Introduction

Just put together a double dish bird bath at my mom's place. Mounted them on pressure treated 4x4 post that I concreted into the ground. Great idea!

1 reply

10 years ago on Introduction

I agree that most trees can easily cope witha few bolts. Have you seen how Treehouses are built? They often use alot of big bolts to support the floor/foundation. The tree can cope. Nice instuctable


10 years ago on Introduction

Putting in a few 2 or 3 inch bolts ought not hurt the tree, after all a lot of the anti-logging tree loving environmentalists out there drive more than a dozen wickedly long bolts into trees in effort to stop chainsaws. They say it doesn't hurt the tree in the long run but hurt the lumberjacks (I don't agree with either camp, btw). Which brings up another point, maybe remind people to remove both dish and bolts should they decide to relocate or remove the birdbath, but that is pretty logical. Oh yeah, don't use copper nails or screws to secure the dish, that will definitely have anegative effect on the tree. Excellent instructible by the way -- I have two old dishes that are going to be birdbaths in a week. I'll even make and attach a Free Bird Bath sign on the LNB arm so birds know it.

1 reply

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

Xonox, thanks for your comments. I agree with your suggestion to avoid copper nails, or anything else other than galvanized or stainless. I will add this as a note and also add a reminder to remove the hardware when relocating. Would like to hear your comments on your finished projects. Incidentally, I have planted a camera near the window in hopes of catching a photo of the two Cardinals that have visited several times.