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Wild birds struggle without water in freezing temperatures

Eastern bluebirds catch a much-needed drink at a heated birdbath.
Eastern bluebirds catch a much-needed drink at a heated birdbath.
Cherri Megasko

As temperatures plummet and snow falls, many nature lovers faithfully fill their bird feeders with a variety of suet and seed. But what often gets overlooked is the importance of water. When natural water sources freeze, birds have very few options to secure life-saving moisture. You can help by installing birdbaths with heating elements, or even dishes of fresh water for temporary relief.

What type of container should I use?

If you are making an impromptu birdbath, the best dishes are those that are shallow with gradually sloping sides. You should also place a rock or two in the middle so that they stick up about an inch out of the water. This allows smaller birds to stand on the rocks and still be able to drink freely. Be careful not to fill the bath too deeply, as it is possible for birds to drown.

Where should I place my birdbath?

Be sure to place your birdbath in an area free from predators so that your birds can drink in a safe environment. Avoid placing it under a feeder, as dropped shells and seeds will quickly contaminate the water. If you have a birdbath heater you will also need to place your birdbath in an area where you can reach it with an outdoor extension cord.

Is it difficult to maintain my birdbath?

If you don’t have a birdbath heater in freezing weather, you will need to remove the ice and refill it with water as often as you can. Regardless of temperatures or weather conditions, birdbaths need to be emptied and wiped clean once a day, and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected at least twice a month.

How do I disinfect my birdbath?

The Audubon Association recommends that you completely immerse your birdbath in a 9:1 water to bleach solution and then rinse it thoroughly.

Providing fresh water for birds during periods of freezing weather is something everyone can do. You don’t have to have an acre of land or purchase an expensive heated birdbath. Just fill a shallow dish with fresh water, throw in a couple of rocks, and remember to clean it often. Then sit back and enjoy the beauty of nature.

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