There are basically two ways to attract birds to your yard – food and water. Of the two, water maybe more important – especially during a dry summer when neighborhood water is scarce, and in winter, when water sources are often frozen. Birds can live for a while without food, but they need water every day. For several years, we have maintained a couple of de-iced bird baths, one in the front yard and one in the back. Together, they draw most every type of bird in the area – plus squirrels, of course.
Put simply, birds need water to survive. Though they can extract some moisture from their food, most birds drink water every day. Birds also use water for bathing, to clean their feathers and remove parasites.
The Audubon folks say that birds have no sweat glands, so they need less water than mammals. However, they do lose water through respiration and in their droppings. Most small birds need to drink at least twice a day to replace the lost water.
Birds get the liquid they need from their food and by drinking. Many insectivorous birds get most of their water from food. Seed-eating birds have a dry diet and need to drink more.
Most birds drink by dipping their bill in water and throwing their head back to swallow. Pigeons and doves are able to immerse their beaks and drink continuously.
We have used a number of different de-icers over the years, but really like the ones we have now. They are called SUPER-Ice Eliminator Birdbath Deicers. They have a lower profile and fit nicely in the bottom of the bath. They are also efficient, to 40 below and only use 80 watts. They are available in bird stores for about $60. You can find them on-line for around $40.
If you really want to attract birds, give them water, especially in the winter.