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Don't forget the drink

Jim Boxberger - Correspondent
Posted 1/15/21

With the cold weather we have been having, many people are feeding the birds to help their feathered friends make it throught the winter, but there is something else they need even more, water. …

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Don't forget the drink

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With the cold weather we have been having, many people are feeding the birds to help their feathered friends make it throught the winter, but there is something else they need even more, water.

We can only go a couple of days without water compared to weeks without food. Likewise birds need a steady source of fresh water and by supplying it for them, you'll get more birds to your yard. But supplying fresh water in cold weather is not as easy as it sounds.

Frozen water is no help to backyard birds, and allowing ice to accumulate in bird baths can damage concrete or ceramic birdbaths. Metal water containers are no good in the winter as the birds feet could freeze to the metal in extremely cold weather, just like sticking your tongue on a flagpole.

There are several techniques that can be used to safely keep a bird bath ice-free. Depending on how severe the cold is options include putting a bird bath in an area where it receives full sun for as long as possible will help keep the water from freezing.

Both morning and evening sun are important, for that is when the air temperatures will drop the most and the water may freeze. Try using dark basins as a darker basin will absorb more heat. If the birdbath does not have a dark basin as its design, line the basin with a black trash bag before filling it, or add a dark plastic plate to the bottom of the basin to absorb more sunlight.

Also the greater the volume of water, the longer it will take to freeze. Keep the birdbath full or use a deeper birdbath in the winter to keep more water free of ice, but be sure the birds have plenty of room to perch along the edges, or on sticks crossing the bath.

Toss a tennis ball or ping pong ball into the bath and allow the floating ball to gently break up ice as it forms. Even better is using a dark-colored ball, which will absorb more solar heat to help keep the water warmer.

If possible keep the water moving as it will be much more difficult to freeze, and a bubbler or small fountain pump can keep a bird bath liquid in colder temperatures. Be sure the fountain pump is protected as cold temperatures may damage delicate components.

Air pumps that push air through an airstone can be kept safely outside of the birdbath. When the temperatures get too cold, you may need to heat it up. Add a heating element to the bird bath to keep the water liquid. These de-icers are efficient even in the coldest temperatures, but do require a nearby electrical outlet.

They are not expensive to operate since they are only keeping the water from freezing. A fully heated bird bath has the heating element integrated into the basin where it is protected from corrosion and can most efficiently keep the water liquid. These are the most expensive options but also the longest lasting and the best for very cold temperatures.

Heated dog bowls make a good substitute if a heated birdbath is not available. Heated dog bowls are widely available and come in different sizes. Since you are putting out a bountiful buffet for your birds, don't forget the drink.

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