In addition to putting up bird and suet feeders in the winter, I also put out a heated birdbath. It has an internal heater and has held up very well for all of the 20 years I’ve had it. Many years ago I attended a class, given by Carrol Henderson who was the director of the MN DNR’s Non-Game Wildlife Program, on feeding wild birds. The big take away for me was that he said if you do only one thing for the birds in winter, provide them with a constant water source using a heated birdbath.
Though I do indeed get many visits to the heated birdbath by a wide variety of birds in the winter, this year a somewhat different. Up until about mid-January it was Robins that were our most frequent drinkers and bathers at the birdbath. They happily took turns splashing about to the point that I had to refill the birdbath a couple of times a day.
A recent article in the Press Publications talked about how some bird species are changing where they spend the winter and that the primary factor for this is due to the changing climate. As winters become milder, the birds are able to stay and don’t need to expend energy on those long migrations south. And most important is that they still have a food source consisting of berries, ornamental fruits, and seed from plant seedheads.
And it isn’t just Robins. Brown Thrashers and Chipping and White Throated Sparrows have also been observed this winter. In addition, we are seeing species in the north at other times of the year that have never visited here before. Who hasn’t seen wild turkeys practically everywhere yet until several years ago there weren’t any this far north. Though there are some robins that do and always have spent their winters in Minnesota, it’s a very low percentage and they will lay low in areas that offer the best protection. But this year was indeed an unusual one and watching them splash and play in the heated birdbath was quite a show.