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Can’t birds eat snow?

heated bird bathsYour Bird Bath!

The answer to the question above is, yes, birds can and do eat snow, when a heated bird bath is not available.

Why Supply Heated Bird Baths For Wild Birds?

Watch this video and you will be convinced you need a bird bath, because the birds seem to derive sheer pleasure from open water.

Read my review of this heated bath.

Birds eating snow does bring hardship to their bodies. Here is why:

  • The temperature of snow of course is below freezing or right on the freezing mark. In order for their bodies to make use of the snow as a source of water it must melt the snow; which in turn creates an increase in need for more energy. Imagine having to scoop a glass of snow and consuming it outside where you cannot melt it first. This just sends chills down the core of your being, doesn’t it?
  • If you have had the experience of melting snow to fill a glass, then you know how much snow is required. Yes, it does take quite a bit, doesn’t it? It takes a much greater volume of melted snow to fill a glass of water, than just the size of the glass. Therefore birds must eat a large volume of snow, to get the amount of water they need.
  • This creates an additional need for more food. Their bodies need more energy which food provides, to warm the volume of snow they are eating and give them energy for all their other activities.

bluebirds-drinking-from-heated-bird-bathBluebirds Drinking From A Heated Bird Bath

It requires a strong, healthy bird to sustain life in below freezing winter climates.

We can supply open water for wild birds in northerly regions for the same reason we supply them with seed in bird feeders.

Not only for our enjoyment but to give them a better chance at life.

Some birders are of the opinion that open water for drinking in winter helps a birds existence more than putting out seed.

It is a way to help tip the chance of survival back in the birds favour as we do so many other things that cause them harm.

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Types of Heated Bird Baths

  1. Buy a heated bird bath with a stand. These types of bird baths have a built in heating element and only need to be plugged in to an outlet. Most models have a thermostatic plug which will keep the water at the proper temperature. They are usually safe to use as a four season bath.
  1. Purchase a de-icer for an existing bird bath. This bath must be safe for use with a heating element. Bird bath heaters also come with a thermostatic plug.
  1. A heated dog bowl can also be used as a winter bird bath.
  1. Consider solar heated bird baths. No need for an electrical outlet. Some models will keep the water open as low as 20° Fahrenheit or -7° Celsius.

Supplying Water In Winter For Wild Birds
~ My Top Picks~

A Four Season Bath ~ 2 More Reasons

  • Wild birds use water to groom their feathers to help keep them free of parasites and dirt. A dirty bird could result in a dead bird. Poorly groomed feathers could result in poor flight. This could create an inability to elude a predator’s attack.
  • After bathing, birds are often observed sitting on a branch preening their feathers. (Running their beak through their feathers to re-align parts of their feathers, called barbs and barbules.) It is believed that the water from bathing, aides in the spreading of oil from the oil gland that helps repel water on the feathers during inclement weather and provides insulation properties.

Common Considerations for All Bird Baths

  • It will be necessary to clean heated bird baths, just not as often as during the warmer months. The number of visitors is also an important factor because more bodies will make it dirtier faster.

  • It is very important to provide shallow places for birds to stand.

Especially during winter weather. Smaller birds will need to feel secure and not fear they will slip into deep water. This can easily be accomplished by placing a flat stone or some pebbles in the bird bath. (If you purchase decorative pebbles from a store, wash and rinse them thoroughly to remove any chemical coating.)

  • Predator protection. (This will be covered under the heading “Where to Locate Your Bird Bath”. Worth mentioning twice though!)

Special Considerations For Winter Bird Bathing

frozen water is difficult for birds

  1. There is a concern that during below freezing temperatures birds should be discouraged from bathing by only providing shallow water. Too much water on a bird’s plumage when temperatures are very cold, may freeze and make the bird too heavy to fly. More water can be added when the temperature warms up to provide enough depth for bathing. The optimum depth for a bird bath for bathing should be no more than 2½ to 3 inches of water.
  1. Never add hot water, it could crack the bird bath or damage the heating element.
  1. Another reason not to add hot water is that there is a possibility that the water temperature could be too hot for unsuspecting birds.

Tips On Where To Locate Your Heated Bird Baths

  • A bird bath needs to be close to cover. Some place like an evergreen tree or a brush pile that you have created, where the birds can flee in case danger arrives.
  • Don’t place a bird bath under a bird feeder or under a favourite perching branch, where bird droppings can fall in the water and contaminate the bath.
  • Place the heated bird bath where you can have the best viewing.
  • Make sure the location is easily accessible for maintenance. It’s easier if you don’t have to wade through too much snow.

Heated bird baths for wild birds are especially important in colder climates where the risk of water freezing is present.

We know wild birds have survived for decades without the aid of heated bird baths.

So why bother now, some people may ask?

Backyard bird watchers have changed the habits of wild birds over the last century to some degree by bird feeding during the winter.

This has caused some wild birds to remain in areas where they used to migrate away from to warmer climates.

The need to migrate principally pivots on food supply. (Not solely though, as not all birds of a particular species have changed their migratory patterns. Some continue to migrate as their species used to even though the food supply is present now in the northern areas with bird feeders.)

With some planning and care you will enjoy the thrills of watching more wild birds in your winter backyard with heated bird baths.

Remember birds are easier to attract and come in more abundant numbers when served a source of drinking and bathing water.

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More Info On Types of Bird Bathing Habits Below & In the Right Column

  • Dust Baths, sun bathing and "anting" may seem like odd practices to humans, but we actually practice activities for the very same purposes.
  • Cleaning Bird Baths on a regular schedule is very necessary for wild bird health and enjoyment.
  • Heated Bird Baths are a wonderful way to provide water for wild birds in winter in areas where the temperatures reach the freezing mark.
  • Homemade Bird Bath How to make a recycled, upcycled bird bath by repurposing used items. The birds love it and it is beautiful too.
  • Bird Bathing Info A bath for birds also provides a basic need for the wild birds too and that is water to drink to sustain their lives.

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