A little fresh water goes a long way in keeping birds at your feeder throughout winter months

In winter, open water is often as hard for birds to find as available food. (Photo courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation)

I’m an unabashed hunter and that includes both gamebirds and waterfowl. I’m equally an unabashed bird feeder and we have a bird feeding station at my home year-around. I also hunt squirrels and welcome them at my feeders, as well. (No, I don’t shoot my yard squirrels.)

When it comes to birds (and squirrels), the more the merrier and I know the simple act of providing fresh water for birds in your yard – or anywhere – will attract the greatest variety of birds to enjoy during any season. Actually, it’s pretty simple, there are a number of options, and water is an important part of providing a top-notch feeding station for fall and winter birds.

Through most of Michigan, some sort of heated water source is going to be required. I’m not ready to start building a wood-fired bird water heater, or one connected to a gas line, so that narrows it down to an electric powered bird water heater.

Here, there are options, one is to go with solar power. A few use solar panels to make power to actually heat the water electrically and, when connected to batteries, they can keep the water ice-free even on cloudy days.

Other solar systems are passive  and simply concentrate winter sunbeams to keep a bit of unfrozen water available during the day time on sunny days. I have no experience with either kind.

What I use is a water source that plugs into an outdoor electrical outlet. Mine is thermostatically controlled so it’s not running all the time. Even when it’s on, it’s like running a light with a 75 watt bulb in it. My station is on the south side of my house and it’s kept the water in the shallow bath open on sunny days at temperatures of minus 15 degrees.

There are many companies that make freeze-free bird watering devices. Most offer options at various price points. Some even feature miniature fountains.

However you provide water through the fall and winter for your birds, the water feature will surely be the hit of the neighborhood for birds during cold-weather months. Enjoy the action, enjoy the birds, and appreciate that you may be providing the only reliable source of ice-free water in the area. My squirrels like it too.

Categories: Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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