These are no Fair-Weather Fowl

Did you know that birds need access to fresh, unfrozen water to stay hydrated & warm in the winter?

birds in winter 029Providing birds with a year-round fresh water source is the most effective way to attract birds to your garden.

There are different foods for different birds. Chickadees prefer nuts. Cardinals eat seeds. Bluebirds love mealworms. The Baltimore Oriole likes fruit, while the Downy Woodpecker seeks suet.

But, every species of bird is attracted to fresh, clean water. 

Birds in winter 006Water is a vital element to their survival through the winter, especially in our changing climate. Though food becomes scarce in the winter months, dehydration is more of a threat than starvation because natural water sources begin to change, evaporate & freeze during this time.

Easy access to fresh, unfrozen water not only allows birds to rehydrate, it also helps keep them warm. “How,” You might ask?

Birds need water to bathe and to preen. You have seen the birds dip and shake in the water, then fluff themselves up and use their beak to groom their feathers. This is called preening. Birds preen themselves often in order to remove dirt, dust & parasites. During this process, they secrete an oil from their uropygial gland found near the base of their tail. They spread this oil over their feathers in order to keep them flexible & waterproof. Then they align their feathers properly, which in turn improves their ability to insulate their bodies during cold weather.

Here is a fun video of the birds enjoying the bird bath in warmer months. Watch for a surprise guest at the end.

You can attract & enjoy watching birds in your back yard by providing fresh water in a shallow dish on your deck or on the Birds in winter 008ground. Add clean water as necessary. Remember, never use chemicals in your birdbaths. Simply empty them and clean them out with a clean brush when necessary. Do not use soap.

You can also use a weather-proof birdbath such as plastic or resin which will not crack as the water freezes and thaws through the winter. To make your job easier, consider purchasing a solar or electric water heater made especially for shallow birdbaths.

Squirrel at water 002In these pictures, I have a floating pond heater which keeps creates an ice-free puddle right beside the island I created for the sole purpose of providing fresh water to birds and wildlife. Not only do we get to enjoy the many species of birds who stop by, but we also get to see the squirrels enjoy a quick drink as they run up & down a nearby tree while making their nest.

Bird & nature watching is a fun activity for the whole family anytime of the year.

Please tell us below, What fresh water sources do you or will you provide this winter?





2 thoughts on “These are no Fair-Weather Fowl

  1. Ah, you inspired us to put out some fresh water today. Thank you! The forecast had been for temperatures in the 20’s most of the day. Because we don’t have a birdbath, we carefully selected a container. I purposely chose a bowl with thick sides. The non-slippery material is easy for the birds to grasp. Importantly, the distance from their perch is not too great—to avoid calamities of stretching too far and falling in!

    In choosing the location for the water, we considered two factors. First a sunny location would likely be welcome to the birds and the sun could keep the water from freezing. Second, we wanted to offer a comfortable location for them. So as a compromise, we chose a morning-sun spot next to a bush where they like to roost. Hopefully the birds will soon feel welcome. Now all we have to do is remember fresh water after a freezing night.

    • Dear SunFlash,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I am glad that you were inspired to add fresh water to your garden for the sake of the birds in winter. They will be especially grateful considering our current forecast of 6-10″ of snow today. The next few days of frigid cold temperatures will make fresh water of utmost importance. If your water freezes, simply add some very hot water each day to melt some of the ice back to its liquid state. A little hot water mixed with the ice in the bath, will allow the combined temperatures to equalize into an appropriate drinkable temperature for the birds. A word of caution to all readers: I would not empty the birdbath and fill it with boiling water only, as such an extreme temperature would prove hazardous to unsuspecting fowl. All they need is some melted water around the rim to drink as the outside temperature changes the water back and forth from solid to liquid.

      Please keep your comments coming. Happy Birding!

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