How DO Birds Get Water in the Winter?

Eurasian Blue Tit in Winter | Serkan Mutan

Birds need water year round and many birds stay in cold climates in the winter months. So what do birds do once the ground is frozen and people stop filling their bird baths in their backyards? Some birds are lucky enough to have backyard heated birdbaths. But most birds who spend their winters in the North do so because for the most part because they are able to access water sources.

Birds will use their feathers to melt snow in order to get small drinks, but they still need enough water in order to stay warm and hydrated. Snow cuts down on their food supply, but in turn the snow actually helps their water supply. And, unlike humans, the snow does offer enough for birds to drink. The other dilemma for birds is they actually need the wetness of the water or snow to keep their feathers in good condition and to keep them waterproof.

If you do use a heater in your bird bath, make sure you keep it safe and in good working condition. I would always put rocks or something in the bird bath so that the birds do not take a complete dunking in the water if it is too far below freezing. The water can freeze up on their feathers after leaving the bath before the birds can dry them, and this might cause the bird to have problems staying warm.

There are great birdbaths that are manufactured with the heaters already inside. They have built-in thermostats that regulate the temperature of the water constantly so the water stays warm. This way the heater only works when it is necessary to keep the water from freezing.

Some of these baths are on a pedestal and some are located on the ground. The birds really appreciate having a place where there is warm water to wash feathers, and they will stick around your yard for the rest of the winter.

Remember to clean the bird baths often. The baths will seemingly get more dirty in the winter than in summer, because it’s not easy to just wash them with the hose. If squirrels get in there and combine their waste with that of the birds,’ the bird bath water will get toxic pretty quick.

If working with a water supply in the winter is not something you are ready to tackle, bugs, berries, and worms all give the birds some hydration as well. Feeding the birds an extra supply of those items will also help when water seems scarce. Birds will travel a long distance to find a creek, river, or other water supplies to take care of their water needs.

However, in the winter when a bird has to travel, it burns more energy. Often, a bird may travel to find water, taking it further from a food source and then back again. This is why it’s important to help the birds out, especially when the ground is frozen.

If you want these small friends to visit your yard this spring, try to provide some water now, so the birds do not have to travel too far during the last of the colder months. Remember, water is life for all of us.