Sunday, January 30, 2022

Water for Birds in Winter

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Nature, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

--"But all of a man’s water, ultimately, belongs to his people—to his tribe. It’s a necessity when you live near the Great Flat. All water’s precious there, and the human body is composed of some seventy percent water by weight. A dead man, surely, no longer requires that water." -- Frank Herbert, Dune

For our winter birds, water is a very important resource. They require it in winter.  Jim Williams Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote "Water is the most important thing you can give birds in winter."  (This link is likely behind a subscription wall.)

And winter birds have features which allow them to save some of the water they ingest, e.g., they remove water vapor they inhale. Ditto for waste. As to eating snow, the energy cost of melting is too high. Williams includes some studies on birds about water loss and getting water from food, e.g., nestlings do not drink until they can fly. Their water is extracted from what they get for breakfast, lunch, dinner. 

Some of our winter birds, e.g., Chickadees can "lower their body temperature at night, by as much as 10 degrees centigrade (1 degree C = 1.8 degrees F.) That is a lot. But Williams note that chickadees "lose 10% of their weight nightly," also a lot.

Williams includes information about heated bird baths and includes a picture of his own which is made of a plastic composite. A good idea.

For birds in winter it is a cold life! There are ways to make it a less thirsty one.

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