Shortly after midnight on Friday (January 29), a light dusting of snow fell on my yard. The brief snow shower occurred on a very cold, windy night. The temperature dipped to 26⁰F and the wind chill hovered in the teens. When I walked down the path leading to my home office, I discovered that the water in the birdbath was frozen and covered with snow. When I got closer to the birdbath, I noticed that birds had left scratches in the snow as they vainly tried to reach water.
This was a stark reminder that wild birds need water during the winter just as much as they do during the spring, summer, and fall. However, it seems that during the winter we sometimes focus on just providing the avian visitors to our feeders with a supply of fresh food.
The truth of the matter is without a dependable source of water close by birds must travel some distance to find it. This enhances their chances of being killed by predators. In addition, it forces them to use energy that they need to avoid freezing to death on bone-chilling winter nights.
Many birds drink water at least a couple of times day. Other birds obtain water from the fruits, insects, and other invertebrates they eat. However, during the winter months their primary source of food is not always readily available. In spite of the fact their primary sources of water are often difficult to locate, they continually lose water through respiration and their droppings.
They also require water to bathe. Birds need to keep their feathers clean. It is much easier for a bird to preen feathers into place when they are clean instead of dirty. Consequently, clean feathers arranged in just the right positions can help a bird from losing too much body heat. This can make the difference as to whether or not it can survive a cold night.
With that in mind, it is essential that all of us make water available to our bird neighbors throughout the winter. In my case, it almost seemed some birds had left me with a cryptic message in the snow that I interpreted as meaning, “Where is the water?” I got their message loud, clear, and immediately poured fresh water in the birdbath.
I hope my experience will prompt you to keep a fresh, clean supply of water in your backyard. If you do, I know the birds will definitely benefit from your actions.