One of the most crucial things we can do for birds during winter is to provide them with a source of fresh water, so a heated bird bath may be a good option for you if you live in a particularly cold region and struggle to keep your bird bath frost-free over winter.
Our feathered garden friends visit bird baths more frequently during winter than summer. They become essential for when the birds' natural resources have frozen over, cutting out a big portion of their drinking water.
Keeping on top of bird bath winter care also allows birds to maintain their plumage as it encourages preening, which helps keep their feathers well-oiled and insulated against the cold.
Investing in a heated bird bath would be a certain way to keep the water defrosted. However, be sure that they're necessary for your garden environment before you buy.
The low down on heated bird baths
If other methods to stop a bird bath freezing in winter haven't worked for you, such as using a floating object or removing ice regularly - or you find these options too time consuming - then a heated bird bath is an option to consider.
Heated bird baths work by plugging into an outdoor power source. Some come with a stand, or can be mounted onto existing surfaces. The best ones should have a thermostat, which means the heating function only switches on when it's needed. The thermostat also allows the temperature to be controlled.
It is possible to buy de-icers, which will keep bird baths frost-free without the need for a new heated bird bath.
Remember you can also move an unheated bird bath to a more sunny spot, as wildlife science expert Alex Van der Walt recommends. 'Even the winter sun is sufficient to keep the water temperature from freezing in some areas,' she says.
What to look for when buying a heated bird bath
If you would like a heated option for your bird bath ideas, be sure to invest in one which will get the job done properly. Look for the following elements to be included when you make your purchase:
- Waterproof plugs: if you're going to reputable suppliers this should be expected. But it's worth mentioning anyway, as water plus electricity can be a dangerous combination, and you don't want any harm to come to yourself or visiting birds.
- Long power cords: this will be useful as it will give you more scope on where you can position your heated bird baths. A spot that gives feathered friends a clear view on approaching predators is necessary for their safety.
- Thermostat controller: it's important to be able to control the temperature of your bird bath. In order not to use energy needlessly, a thermostat will be able to switch off the heating system when it reaches the correct temperature. Remember it only needs to be warmed enough to keep it above freezing.
- Sufficient ledge: in order for birds to be able use the bird bath properly your heated bird bath needs an edge for the birds to perch on whilst taking a drink.
- It's the right temperature: A bird bath mistake would be to think your bird bath needs to be warm. Anything above freezing is fine for birds. Alex Van Der Walt advises that you regularly check the water is not hot to the touch.
- Don't let it run dry: this is good practice for bird baths generally, but your heated bird bath may, or may not have, an automatic shut off function for when the basin is empty. This function is recommended in order to not waste energy heating fresh air.
Shop heated bird baths
The thermostatically controlled heating elements can be removed after winter, so this can be kept as an ordinary bird bath after the cold weather.
This heated bird bath also has compartments for bird feed. So your feathered friends can have a bite to eat as well as a well needed drink.
Where to place a heated bird bath
'I would place any bird bath, heated or not, in your sunniest spot in the garden,' says Alex Van Der Walt.
As well as a sunny spot, try and keep your bird bath a little high off the ground, out of reach of cats, the same goes for bird feeders. There should be no bushes nearby that predators can hide behind to pounce on unsuspecting birds.
An author for Animals Around The Globe, Alex Van der Walt has a BSc in Animal Science and was a vet student with a lot of experience working closely with animals. She writes articles for those who share a love for wildlife and nature.
Is a heated bird bath a good idea?
According to wildlife science expert Alex Van der Walt, heated bird baths aren't necessary for a warm climate.
If you are in a cold region and struggle with keeping your bird bath defrosted however she says: 'If the heating is gentle and keeps the bath from freezing with no chemicals, and circulates this water, they can be a good option.'
'Most importantly, I would check that the heated bird bath does not make the water too hot; it only needs to prevent it from freezing. If you do not have a heated bird bath, you could top up the bath in the morning with some warm water,' she says.
Heated bird baths are a way to keep water from freezing over, thus maintaining a valuable resource for birds over the scarce winter months.
Providing birds with food is just as important as water, so it's worth it to learn the do's and don'ts of feeding birds in winter.
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Teresa was part of a team that launched Easy Gardens magazine two years ago and edited it for some time. Teresa has been a Gardens Editor at Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors and Living Etc magazine since 2020 and has developed close working relationships with top garden designers, and has been exposed to an array of rich garden content and expertise.
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