Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Birds need water

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Bird feeding, Birding equipment, Birds in the backyard Updated: November 16, 2011 - 11:43 AM

 Watching our muskrats this morning I noticed bird activity on the far side of our pond, where the morning sun had hit. The birds were at the pond edge, pecking at the ice. They were looking for water. I had cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches, House Finches, and one Downy Woodpecker. Eventually, one observant goldfinch found open water at the muskrat lodge near that shore. The mammal had an entry hole in the half-inch-thick ice. Soon, chickadees were drinking there, too. It's very dry everywhere -- no rain, no snow, ponds iced over. Birds can't find water. This is a good time to put your heated bird bath to work, or to buy one. You'll need an outdoor electric outlet. Water is almost better for attracting birds in the winter than food is. Natural food always is available, but water can be difficult to find at best. Snow will help when it arrives. There's almost always a bit of melting snow and drops of water somewhere. That won't lessen the attraction of an open bowl of water in your yard. Below, a chickadee at the muskrat lodge opening. By the way, this is not the traditional cattail lodge often seen in marshes. This muskrat built with sticks and clumps of muddy leaves, all of it speckled with duck weed.

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