There are few things lovelier than a fresh blanket of snow and frozen ponds. Looks like a winter wonderland and very picturesque. Perhaps after you have enjoyed the view for awhile your mind may have turned to the furry critters who have to live outdoors on these cold days. And maybe you have asked the question, what are all the animals going to drink if everything is frozen? Do they eat snow? We know humans can freeze to death if they eat snow, so what about birds? The answer is yes, they can eat snow. But it takes a lot more energy for them to thaw the snow, and for their bodies to bring the freezing temperatures of the snow to their body temperature, than if they were to drink water that is not frozen. Water is just as crucial for animals as it is for humans. Actually starvation (which is always a concern for birds) can be less of a threat than dehydration. Birds often get their water supply from melting icicles, and puddles. When it is severely cold and there is no water to drink, they do eat snow.
But refrain from running outside and placing bowls of warm water out for your feathered friends. Though not common, birds have been known to bathe in warm water when it was very cold outside. And resulted in their feathers getting coated in ice and were unable to fly. Heated bird baths are a wonderful source of water for birds in freezing weather. But be sure to put rocks or sticks across the top of your to prevent them from bathing.
Water is especially important for birds to stay warm in the winter. Because water helps birds keep their feathers preened. Preened feathers are important to birds because it keeps feathers properly positioned and aligned. If they are not in alignment, the cold can seep in the gaps of their insulation. Which causes them to lose their body heat faster. When there is no water to bathe in the birds will take snow baths. This helps preening and fluff up their feathers to make a insulating layer. Each feather is controlled by a small group of muscles. When birds fluff their feathers, they create many tiny air pockets that drastically reduce heat loss. This is why down coats are so cozy in the cold. On cold nights birds bury their beaks and feet into their feathers, which helps reduce heat loss further.
Winter is lovely, but can be a trying time for the animals who live out in it. You can help alleviate their hardships by providing a reliable water source. And don’t be fooled with the old myth that if you start feeding and providing water for the birds they will starve if you stop. Nonsense! They will no more die of thirst or hunger than you will if you favorite restaurant goes out of town! You may be miffed but you certainly wouldn’t die! Providing a haven for your feathered friends with bird feeders and heated bird baths will not only help the them out, but in return, birds are so fun to watch. And will offer you many hours of amusement and entertainment.