I bought a heated bird bath about a decade ago, with a goal of attracting more birds to my yard in winter.

Wildlife, even during the cold season, prefer to drink water rather than eat snow to get fluids. Plus, I knew birds will bathe as long as the temperature is above freezing.

My first attempt at drawing more birds with a heated bird bath went awry because I went for an inexpensive model. Within a few days, the heating element in the tray burned out, and the water froze. I gave up and tossed out the unit.

A month ago, a friend loaned me a heated bird bath made by Allied Precision Industries. It was clearly better built. I made a stand for it out of treated 2-by-2s, and placed it near my back-yard bird feeders.

It took a few days for the local flocks to find the water, but now each day brings a variety of songbirds to drink.

It's fun to watch blue jays, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches and other birds perched on the frosty edges of my serving dish and dipping their bills.

However, I didn't count on deer interest. Now, each morning, I fill the tray, knowing deer will drink it dry overnight.

Gray fox and red squirrels also find the open water to their liking. I'm happy to share.

I added a flat stone to the bath, which allows birds of various sizes to drink or bathe. I also placed the bath in an area open to sunshine. At some point, I'll drain the bath and paint the basin a darker color, knowing that will help it absorb and retain heat from the sun. It might even help cut some electricity costs.

A heated bird bath is a surefire way to attract wildlife, especially colorful songbirds.

Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.