Feed your hedgehogs before they hibernate

Winter is coming: Helping your garden birds this season

Fresh, Regular Water is Vital to Birds

October 22, 2015

Provide Fresh Water for your Birds

There are plenty of things that are easy to provide for your garden birds, from bird seed to birdhouses, but one of the most important offerings is fresh, clean water.

Although birds do not need as much water to survive as mammals, access to fresh, clean water is still extremely important. Although they do not have sweat glands, garden birds still lose what water they retain through a lack of sweat through breathing and defecating.

Birds with dry diets, such as tits or greenfinches, are especially in need of this easy access, because they are unable to gain any water from their food. Wagtails, wrens and treecreepers are able to leech water from their live insect prey. However, during the winter months, access to fresh water in a bird’s natural habitat becomes limited. Ice and hard ground mean the supply of fresh water you provide in your garden can make all the difference.

Bird Baths

Birds can drink from anything deep enough to dip their bill in, so a birdbath is the perfect solution! As long as it has a depth of between 2.5-10cm, and is sturdy enough to withstand the weather and your feathery friends’ talons. Ideally, you need the surface of the dish or bowl to be rough so that the birds can stand inside to bathe as well as drink. If the surface is too smooth, add some garden pebbles into the bottom of the dish to prevent the birds from scrabbling in vain!

During the winter months, it is important to remember that your bird bath needs to remain ice-free, so that your garden birds can still access it in the depths of the coldest winters.

There are a few simple and easy ways to prevent the water freezing without using chemicals (which are extremely harmful to birds and can remove their waterproofing or even poison them).

Try these tips to prevent your water from freezing:

  1. Place a light ball (such as a ping pong ball) in the dish, which will be disturbed by even a gentle breeze and prevent the water from being still long enough to freeze.

  2. Pour hot water into the dish each morning to melt any existing ice and to top up the water levels.

  3. Use a rubber container as your bird bath, and leave it in the sun! Because rubber absorbs heat, it will remain warmer than a metal dish would overnight and will prevent the water freezing.
  4. These methods are all steadfast ways of trying your best to fight off that winter chill and give your birds the best possible chance of accessing fresh and clean water.

Garden Ponds

If your garden is large enough, a pond is a great addition to help not just birds but other wildlife. Keep the edges shallow and provide some stones or branches for convenient perches. You will be rewarded with birds drinking and bathing, often splashing about like kids in a paddling pool.

A pond can add plenty of wildlife including amphibians such as newts, frogs, dragonflies and other winged insects. As many of these creatures breed they can encourage new birds to take advantage. Grey Herons will feed on tadpoles and young frogs, Chiffchaffs and Great Tits will hunt through pond-side vegetation for insect larvae and eggs. If you can manage to create some muddy edges in a larger garden you may even have the local House Martins and Swallows calling in for house-building supplies!

Drinks Feeders

The simplest way to provide a reliable water source through the summer that can be used in even the smallest of gardens is a drinks feeder. Just like seed feeders, these are hanging water ‘feeders’ that small birds can use to take a much needed drink. Easy to use and top up, once your local birds know the water is there, they’ll be back every day.

Cleaning Your Bird Bath

Other than keeping the water fresh and unfrozen, cleaning your bird bath is also extremely important. Your bird bath will build up a layer of algae and bird droppings over time, so cleaning should be done once a week. The best way to do this without leaving any harmful material is to use marketed non-toxic products. Diluted household cleaners can also be used, as long as the bird bath is thoroughly rinsed out afterwards.

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