How Thirsty Are Your Wild Birds?
Eight to ten glasses of water a day, every day--that’s the latest recommendation from health officials. After all, the human body is 60% water, and it needs replenishing on a regular basis. That’s simple enough, just go grab a glass and fill it up.
What about the animals, especially in the wintertime? Don’t they need water, too? You bet they do! All animals absolutely have to have a minimum amount of water every day no matter what, and that includes wild birds. Without unfrozen water, birds die. That’s a fact.
Can't They Eat Snow?
Yes, they can; but eating snow requires energy to melt it. There’s a major trade-off involved when birds are forced to find water by eating snow.
And what if there is no snow, just frigid temperatures that have frozen over the nearest water source?
Do You Provide Water for Your Birds in the Wintertime?
How Do You Keep the Water From Freezing?
It’s a simple matter to place a low-voltage bird-safe de-icer in your bird bath. Select one that has a built-in thermostat to conserve energy when it isn’t needed. There are some available that look like stones, and can even be painted to match your bird bath!
Instead of a bird bath de-icer, you can opt for a heated bird bath. Just plug it in to an outdoor-rated extension cord and you’re good to go.
Or, if you receive a lot of winter sunshine, a solar-powered bird bath may work well for you.
Are Bird Bath De-Icers Safe For the Birds?
Yes, bird bath heaters are made to be safely submerged in your bird bath, and can be connected to your outside power source. They provide low voltage, but it is enough to keep the water just above freezing (about 40 degrees). The bird-safe covers ensure no contact can be made with any electricity. If you buy a de-icer without a built-in thermostat, make sure that the water in the bird bath covers the de-icer at all times. Otherwise it will continue to try heating only the surrounding frigid air; and that could lead to a burnt-out de-icer.
By the way, I always place a flat stone on top of my de-icing unit in the bird bath. It serves two purposes: it keeps the unit flat on the bottom, and it covers up the shiny metal so that ‘unnatural’ surface does not intimidate my birds!
What Kind of Electric Cord Is Safe To Use Outside?
Choose a power cord that is rated for outdoor use and has a UL listing.
UL, or Underwriter's Laboratory, establishes safety ratings and tests products to make sure they comply with their standards. Their job is to ensure that the UL label only appears on items that will be safe to use in the specified applications.
It’s a good idea to use a cord protector, which is an inexpensive barrel-shaped device that hides and protects your plug connection. I like to use this product to make sure my connections will not come in contact with snow, ice or rain.
I remember once we had a snowstorm that dumped 12" overnight. When I had finally shoveled my way to the bird bath, I found that the cord connection was buried, but the bird bath de-icer was still working just fine!
Wintertime Bird Bath Fun from CapeCodAlan
What's the Best Bird Bath to Use Year Round?
Metal bird baths withstand extreme cold and heat without any problems. Ceramic, concrete, plastic or other materials tend to crack when temperatures are frigid. However, if you add a birdbath de-icer, and keep your bird bath filled with water, any type of bird bath should be fine in the wintertime. Also, since birds enjoy feeling secure, if you decide you want a ceramic bird bath, add flat stones to the bottom. Ceramic is very slippery underfoot, and birds don‘t like that.
If you purchase a heated bird bath, then any sturdy material will work well. There are also deck-mounted heated bird baths available.
Where Should I Locate My Bird Bath?
Near a water source or hose is best, so you don’t end up carrying water to fill it. Also, an overhanging evergreen or other type of shrub provides a place for birds to check for predators, as well as make an easy getaway if necessary. It also makes a great preening spot. When birds’ feathers are wet, they don’t fly so well. Once they are done cleaning and preening their newly-bathed feathers, they will have no trouble flying away quickly.
Don’t put the bird bath too near the bush. Birds like to have a clearing with some shelter very nearby. They will feel more comfortable and come more often when they can easily see what is happening around the area. On the other hand, if you put your bird bath out in the middle of the yard with nothing close by for birds to perch on, they probably will avoid using it.
Will Birds' Feet Stick to Metal Surfaces When They Are Wet?
No! The scaly surface of a bird’s foot sheds water and WILL NOT freeze to a metal surface, contrary to popular belief. Birds need to clean their feathers on a regular basis, no matter what the temperature. Clean feathers ensure quick escape should predators be about.
How Much Water Do I Need to Put in the Basin?
You need very little water to make a bird happy. I use no more than 1-1/2 to 2 -1/2 inches of water in my bird baths. I add flat stones so birds have a place to wade in safely. If you observe birds in natural settings, you'll see that they choose shallow puddles, and tend to splash around rather than submerge their bodies.
Small birds will not be able to use bird baths that are too deep, and will avoid them. There is a serious risk of drowning if water is too deep!
Is It Okay to Use a Hanging Bird Bath in the Wintertime?
If you live in a warmer climate, you can use a hanging bird bath. But remember to keep it filled, especially when high winds make the bird bath swing, and the water sloshes out and evaporates sooner. I would not recommend a hanging bird bath in the wintertime up north because of the difficulty in securing a de-icer so that it stays inside the hanging bird bath.
What About Bubblers and Solar Bird Baths?
Bubblers are devises that help to attract birds to the water source. The sound of running water is irresistible to them. They also help to keep the water open when it isn’t too very cold out.
Solar bird baths don’t work very well for me. I find that there is a serious lack of sunshine during the winter months here in the northeast. However, if you are in a region that receives ample winter sun, then by all means ‘go green’ with solar!
Remember to Provide Water for Your Birds!
Providing an open water source for your birds is a life saver when frigid temperatures invade your environment. Explore the many options and choose the one that works best for you. Your birds will thank you for it!