Bird Watcher's General Store

“A Cape Cod Destination Icon For 40 Years”

Importance of Water in Winter

Dear Bird Folks,

Last week you wrote about putting a heater in your birdbath so the water won’t freeze in cold weather. I usually only put my birdbath out in the summer when it’s hot and dry. Why would I want to put it out in the winter when it’s cool?

Ron, Harwich


Hey Ron,

Do you only drink when it’s hot and dry? What are you, a camel? Most creatures from around here like to drink on a regular basis. (And I’m not just talking about the Land Ho! Crowd.) Even though it can be dry in the summer, there are always ponds and lakes for the birds to visit. During cold winters, most available fresh water can freeze solid, leaving birds searching for water to drink. Sure, they can chip at ice or eat snow to obtain moisture, but eating too much ice could make it tough for a bird to keep up its body temperature. That is why the snow cone line is always so short at a December football game in Buffalo.

The best reason you may want to keep your birdbath open in the winter is that water will attract far more birds than even a bird feeder. Birds that have no use for bird seed will come for a drink. Birds like mockingbirds, waxwings and wintering warblers or thrushes could come to your birdbath. Last week a customer brought us this great picture of a flock of bluebirds drinking at her open birdbath on Christmas morning. And we all remember that it was about a zillion degrees below zero on Christmas morning. Open water was tough for the bluebirds to find. Just about everything had frozen up. I even had trouble getting my Studebaker started.

Don’t forget, Ron, we do all of this for our own entertainment. If a summer birdbath works for you, then don’t feel that you have to put one out in the winter too. No one is going to talk about you. At least not until your back is turned.