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Water is crucial, and scarce, in winter


Guest dog person

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Guest dog person

Bird seed attracts rodents, so to make a long story short, I no longer feed the birds.

However, I do try to provide a water source.

https://www.drsfostersmith.com/pic/article.cfm?articleid=2060

excerpts below

EZ - Tilt Heated Birdbath Though food is scarce in winter, dehydration can be a bigger threat to birds than starvation. Fewer non-frozen sources of water exist. Though birds can eat snow, it takes much more precious energy for a bird to eat snow and warm it to body temperature than it does for them to drink unfrozen water

Water is not only important for hydration, but it also helps birds preen their feathers. Without proper preening, birds' feathers won't stay positioned and aligned. Feathers out of alignment in winter create gaps in insulation, which makes birds lose body heat faster.

Birds may have to fly great distances in winter to find unfrozen water sources. Some birds take advantage of unfrozen sections in rivers or swift streams, but these are rare in some areas. Some birds take advantage of open water in lakes or ponds due to human aerating.

We can give birds access to unfrozen water right in our backyards by providing a heated birdbath. Or, we can use an existing birdbath and add a heating element. Most of these units turn on and off automatically when temperatures dip below freezing.

 

Edited by dog person
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That's a big "non-applicable" for the Idaho household since we have a natural spring just up the hill above and below our place--never freezes and is a boon to all the critters on the mountain!
I have never seen a rodent around our birdfeeder in the 30 plus years we have lived here but, even if that is the case, mice are welcome to share in our generosity.

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Here is another side on the dangers of winter bird baths, just in our local Twin Cities paper:

http://www.startribune.com/evidence-that-winter-baths-can-be-bad-for-birds/504380032

We feed year-round (despite the attraction of rodents) and also have 3 birdbaths and a fountain which draw birds every season but winter.  In the summer, the goldfinches and chickadees bring their youngsters to the feeders, so they are used to using it when winter arrives and we keep it full for them.

I am not sure where you live, Dog Person, so perhaps this is not a problem in your area.  I was alarmed by the part of the article, though, in which the woman mentions finding 6 dead cardinals with frozen wings. I would never want to be responsible for that.

Edited by Kathryn
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In Northern PA mountains our family feed in winter starting when it gets cold late October to early November. Never have put water out - but there are springs here and there throughout the area. Birds biggest competitors are squirrels so have to make the bird feeders none accessible for these. Put out field corn for the squirrels (which the deer like too) plus they have their own various stashes here and there.

Frozen wings sound like they got their wings wet - a possible danger with water source perhaps? Freezing rain can reduce ability for feathers to keep fluffed plus it add weight. It is the most dangerous weather the birds in our area face.

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