Water is a huge attraction for birds and other wildlife any time of the year but it is especially so during the winter. Having a shallow dish (max depth of 2 1/2 inches) with fresh water provides birds with the fluids they need to metabolize the nutritious seeds and other foods they’re gobbling up throughout the day. It also enables them to preen and clean their feathers which keep them insulated and warm as well as ready for flight.
During our snowstorm in December and the really cold weather we’ve had the last few weeks, the birds were particularly thankful for this fresh water, with all sorts of different species dropping in. The Bluebirds seemed to especially enjoy it and just last week we had six of them here at once enjoying the fresh water.
Throughout these chilly months, the birdbath I use has a thermostat and heater built in so it turns on when the temperature drops down below 40 degrees and turns off when the temperature rises. You can see in the photo here the plug where I plug it in. In the summer, I just remove the cord. There are also heaters that you can get to put in your birdbath just for winter.
Keeping the water clean is also important. Bird droppings will get in there throughout the day. At our house, we also have raccoons that come in the night to wash their paws in the birdbath. Their paws are always so muddy… oh what do they get into? 🙂 So, I have it as part of my morning routine when I fill the platform feeder with seeds, to also head out with my brush and watering bucket to clean and fill the birdbath.
In terms of placement of a birdbath, it’s best to locate it within a few feet of some trees or other vegetation so the birds have some protection both from the elements and from predators.
Keep an eye on those birdbaths for interesting birds – we’ve had reports of hawks and owls coming in for a drink now and then as well as the songbirds.