Winter weather can be challenging especially for birds. Our feathered friends will no doubt feel the effects of cold, snow-filled days. Birds need water in winter, just as they do any time of year, but providing it for them when it’s freezing out can be a challenge. So what can you do to keep your birds with a fresh supply of water in their birdbath when the mercury plummets?
Why Birds Need Help Your Help In Winter
While birds have the ability to consume melting snow, doing so requires energy that they would otherwise use to search for food in scarce conditions. Moreover, drinking partially melted water can lower their body temperature, rendering them sluggish and more susceptible to predators, cold snaps, and other endangerments. However, if you prevent your bird bath from freezing, birds will happily visit this convenient water source, allowing you to enjoy a wide variety of feathered guests throughout the winter season.
6 Easy Tips to Keep Your Bird Bath From Freezing
There are several simple steps to prevent your birdbath from freezing. The number of steps needed and their effectiveness will depend on the severity of the cold and the duration of cold snaps. However, every bit of water provided to birds is beneficial. Prepare your bath for chilly nights as early in the season as possible.
- Position for Warmth. Move the bath into a sunny spot where it can absorb solar heat and it will stay liquid for longer. At the same time, be sure it is positioned near a windbreak for added protection.
- Darken the Surface. Darker surfaces absorb heat more efficiently. Adding a few black river rocks, a black plate, or a sheet of black plastic to the bottom of the bath’s basin can help the water absorb heat and stay liquid.
- Add an Icebreaker. Breaking the thin films of ice that form on the surface will help keep the whole bath liquid. Float a small ball in the basin and the wind will blow it across the surface to break the ice. A dark ball will also act as a small heat absorber for more anti-freezing efficiency.
- Turn on the Heat. Adding an outdoor-rated immersion heater to a birdbath can keep the water temperature just warm enough to keep from freezing. These heaters require a nearby outlet or outdoor extension cord but are energy-efficient and easy to use. Check with your local garden center or online retailer for options.
- Invest in a Spa. Give backyard birds a treat when you opt for a fully heated winter birdbath. These baths have heaters integrated into the basin and will stay almost completely liquid as the temperature drops, ensuring birds always have adequate liquid water.
- Keep It Full. egardless of the technique used to prevent freezing, it’s important to keep the birdbath basin full, as smaller amounts of water freeze more quickly and heaters may malfunction if there isn’t sufficient water in the bath.
What NOT to Do!
It can be tempting to take drastic measures to keep a birdbath from freezing, but it is important to always consider safety—for yourself and for the birds—when providing winter water.
- Do not add any salts, anti-freeze, or other chemicals to the water, as these are highly toxic and poisonous to birds.
- If the bath does freeze, do not use boiling water or sharp blows to break or melt the ice, since these dramatic gestures can damage the bath.
- Never use space heaters or other external heaters nearby to try and warm up the bath either, as these appliances are not rated for outdoor use and there is a risk of short circuits and fires.
With just a few simple steps, you can keep your birdbath flowing freely even in the chilliest weather, and you’ll be amazed at how many birds enjoy an easy drink on cold, snowy days.
Melissa Mayntz is a writer who specializes in birds and birding, though her work spans a wide range—from folklore to healthy living. Her first book, Migration: Exploring the Remarkable Journeys of Birds was published in 2020. Mayntz also writes for National Wildlife Magazine and The Spruce. Find her at MelissaMayntz.com.