Lifegiving Water for Birds and Wildlife

Most of us are diligent during the hot summer months when it comes to keeping our birdbaths filled with cool, clean water for our feathered friends to enjoy.

What most people don’t realize is that it is just as important to keep water accessible for birds and wildlife all year long.  This is particularly true in the winter.

If you live in a cold terrain, the natural supply of water for birds and wildlife may be frozen, including your birdbaths.  Birds and wildlife all need fresh water to survive.  When it comes to our delicate feathered friends, they lose water through respiration and in their droppings.  Most birds need a drink of water at least twice a day to replenish their body’s water.

Just because you’d never dream about taking a bath in a lake or stream in the dead of a bitter cold winter, your birds wouldn’t.   Birds must bathe even in the coldest of weather to keep their feathers in good condition and loosen dirt. This is one of the keys to their survival.

Below are easy ideas and tips to help keep your birds and wildlife hydrated throughout the year:

Birdbaths are always a big hit with all species of birds.  However, it’s critical you keep your birdbaths clean.  I rinse mine regularly using elbow grease, a little Dawn (dishwashing liquid) and warm water.  Never use chemicals of any kind in your birdbath, even to clean them – you don’t want to poison them.  Even a small trace of chemicals can do them in.

Create a ground level birdbath by placing a large shallow metal, glass, ceramic or plastic container on the ground. Be sure container is BPA-free, contains no rust, lead or chemicals and is thoroughly washed.  Not only will the birds enjoy it, but also other wildlife.   I’ve seen chipmunks, squirrels and a herd of deer drinking my birdbath dry.  Several times I’ve watched a raccoon wallowing in his private bathtub!

Keep the birdbaths shallow.  If it’s a deeper than half an inch, be sure to put a small stone in the bottom of the birdbath allowing birds to see the depth so they don’t drown.

Never fill your wildlife water supply from a garden hose unless you are sure it is BPA free.  My own rule of thumb, if I wouldn’t drink from it, neither should the animals!   If you don’t have a BPA-free hose or you aren’t sure if it is BPA-free, use a watering can that is BPA free, doesn’t contain lead and isn’t rusty.   If all else fails, use one of your own large drinking pitchers to fill the birdbaths!

Small shallow 5” or 6” wide salad bowls are a big hit too for water.  Place a small shallow salad bowl with approx. an inch or less of water on your deck railing or other outdoor area.  I have a cascade of Cardinals, Chickadees, Blue Jays and Mourning Doves that visit it daily.

To help keep birdbaths from freezing, float a small very lightweight ball (washed and BPA free) in the birdbath.  The ball’s gentle movement will help prevent the water from freezing.  You can also check the stores or go online for solar gadgets made especially to keep birdbaths from freezing.

Shop for shepherds hooks that mount right onto your deck or other outside structures.  There are also double shepherd’s hooks so you can hang saucers of both water and birdseed.

Got leftover berries?  String them into a garland and hang them from a tree branch or drape over a bush.  Got natural peanuts or other nuts that got a little stale?  Toss them out to your feathered friends.   Fruit going a little bad?  Slice open an orange, banana or apple and impale it on a tree branch.  If you have fruit loving birds in your area, they will be grooving on it.

Keep your birdbaths within visible window view so you can enjoy watching all the birds and critters that visit them.  Want a more close-up look?  Mount a wildlife camera nearby.  You can pick up cameras starting around $100 – check them out and enjoy the wildlife entertainment in your own backyard (and hey, it can also catch prowlers too!).  Some cameras also take incredible night photos and videos — you might be surprised as to who and what is going on in your own backyard under the cover of darkness.

Most of all, appreciate and enjoy nature’s free show!