Warm weather months provide ample water sources for birds; lakes, ponds – even puddles from a summer rain – proper hydration for birds. During spring and summer, bird baths are another great source of water for birds, and provide great pleasure for birdwatchers. When winter weather arrives, however; many mistakenly believe snow is an ample water source for birds. Birds can become quickly dehydrated in cold weather due to inadequate water supplies.
The truth is snow is not hydration – it contains only 10 percent water! So a bird would have to eat a lot of snow before he actually got the water he needed, much of it being absorbed on the tongue. The rains have stopped, and if there is no snow on the ground, and ponds, rivers and lakes are frozen, what’s a bird to do? The dry, cold air of winter also facilitates dehydration in a bird by the loss of respiratory fluid through breathing – a very dangerous and life threatening situation.
Offering a fresh water supply in winter is of the utmost importance, not just for hydration, but also for the care and preening of feathers. In fact, second only to eating, birds spend more time preening their feathers than any other activity. Using water during preening helps birds remove dust, dirt and parasites from feathers, which helps keep them in the proper position and alignment. One might think a bird takes such great care of its feathers for flying, but in reality, it’s to keep them properly positioned for insulation. Any gaps, or misaligned feathers let heat escape faster from the body, potentially causing hypothermia – a primary cause of premature death in small song birds. So, supplying a water source is critical to bird survival in winter.
The best way to help our fine feathered friends from becoming dehydrated is to provide a water source in winter. The optimal method is to maintain a bird bath with proper water levels throughout winter, and most-importantly one with a de-icer. De-icers are safe and easy to use. They will not harm your bird bath (not even plastic ones), and most importantly, will not harm your backyard birds. Make sure you refresh your water every day, or at least every other day to prevent total evaporation. This simple task will increase the longevity of birds, aid in keeping them warm and hydrated, as well as provide a great sense of joy as you see them visit your bird bath.
Wild About Birds carries a large selection of de-icers and bird baths. Most popular during this time of year is our collection of bird baths with built in thermostats and de-icers. An all-in-one solution for providing backyard birds with a constant water supply; the built-in thermostat activates the de-icer when needed, and turns it off when temperatures are above freezing. This feature mitigates using electricity unnecessarily, and keeps the temperature constant, never over heating the water. Offering water in winter is good for everyone, as it contributes to a better bird ecology and increases bird watching opportunities. A bird bath in winter is a wonderful gift to yourself or a bird enthusiast, and the birds.