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It’s That Time of Year Again…

October 19, 2009


I opened my patio door to put out fresh bird food and caught a cold blast of air that made me stop and pause…. yes it is that time of year again. Just yesterday I got a birding sales magazine and thought I must go on the no junk mail list again. But since I had it all ready, I thought what the heck lets see what they are trying to sell now. I was shocked and horrified at what I saw. So after getting a good cold blast of air this morning I knew it was time to do this post. OK, OK I’m getting there already. The issue is the use of heated bird baths. I still can not believe that so many “birding ” stores are selling those death traps. Yes, I really mean death traps. The above photo shows the best way to kill a bird even though you are trying to do just the opposite! I thought maybe this was just a rare occurrence…. one in a million. Surely not sold by any reputable birding stores. Oh, boy was I surprised! I lost count of all of the places and types out on the market. Now the above photo is from one of those stores and the only reason I choose that one was the size of the photo and the bird being in the water. This by no means is a statement on their products as this model is a fairly common style AND can be used if done safely. Have I confused you yet? Sorry, I really would like to say NEVER EVER use heated bird baths but I know some one would say something like what does she know if there are so many being sold they must be OK to use and then put one out and could end up killing birds….. because some of these bird bath’s instructions may not tell you what I am going to tell you. Here’s the scoop. Warm water bird baths are good if you are going to “baby sit” them. Meaning, if you use them you must check them frequently to make sure their power source is still working safely. Birds in the winter really do not need to take “baths” and their need of drinking water is much less in the winter than in the summer. But they do still need water. If you are in an area where you get snow or freezing  and below freezing weather, then this post is meant to be helpful to you for the most part. Nature provides the basic rules for this kind of issue. If there is snow or freezing weather and that includes windchill factor, then wintering birds do NOT need to take a bath and they can get their water from the snow or off  plants. It is the mix of water and freezing that will kill the birds. Even in summer birds have a decreased ability to fly with wet feathers…. that’s why you see them leave the bath and land on near by trees to dry out and finish  preening their feathers. If a bird is tempted into the warm water and the air temperature is freezing or below that bird is likely to die…. it may not drop dead right next to the bird bath, but it will not make it far before the water  freezes and they lose the ability to fly and then either be eaten by a predator or freeze to death because it can not fly to shelter. I wonder how many unsuspecting people see dead frozen birds in the winter and think they must have died due to lack of food or water and really it is likely their next door neighbor had a heated bird bath! Now I bet you are thinking I must be crazy to even say having a heated bird bath can be OK….. you wouldn’t be the first one to think me a touch off in the head…lol… but really they can be used if done right. How to do it right. Some may be using heated bird baths for other wildlife…. like the ones that you can add to a water source that is on the ground. What ever the use they must be safe for any critter that can get to the heated bath. If it is going to freeze and all you are doing is providing for birds then just turn it off until the temperature comes well above freezing. That approach is my last choice. Or my next to last approach would be to put rocks and small twigs in the water so that there is not enough room for even the smallest of the wintering birds in your area to get through. This will leave the room to get a drink and not take that tempting bath or even slip into it while getting a drink. Oh, while I’m at it….lol… please know that birds feet will NOT stick and freeze on the side of frozen bird baths….. it’s not like sticking your tongue to a metal pole in winter. Also please do not add any kind of antifreeze into the water as that too will kill critters. The best thing to do is just don’t use them if you don’t have the time to keep a check on them….. birds really don’t need them. So don’t waste your money on them….. spend it on feed for those critters.  You can add water for the birds by just putting a shallow tray down with water in it and if it freezes just dump it out and put fresh water back in once or twice a day will take care of the whole issue. Now have I beaten this into the ground yet? Hope not…. so go now and grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage and kick back and enjoy your feathered friends. May they bring you delight and wonder until our paths cross again…… Lila

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