Open Water, Open Heart
The recent winter blast that brought temperatures down to zero or below made it difficult for birds to find a place to drink or bathe. People often do not understand why birds need to bathe during such cold weather. Avian species stay warm by fluffing up their feathers to create more insulating air pockets. If the feathers are dirty, they stick together and do not open fully. Thus, birds need to clean themselves on a regular basis.
To refresh their feathers, birds need to have a source of open water—very difficult to find during a frigid winter. Tarn and I have provided a heated bird bath for many years and this particular cold pattern has brought many robins, finches, doves, varied thrush, chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, and others to drink and bathe. The water gets really dirty and we need to clean and refresh the contents of the disk-shaped bowl nearly every day. It seems like the least we can do to support living creatures experiencing a steep decline in populations.
Many bird species have lost 30 to 50 percent of their population in the last 50 years. One study in 2019 estimated Canada and the U.S. had lost as many as 3 billion birds relative to historical averages. Although some species like ducks and geese have seen increases in numbers, most other species are in decline. Some scientists feel we are in the midst of a mass extinction event not only for birds, but other species as well.
It is easy to feel helpless in the face of such a possibility, but it is important to remember we can always do something. Imagine what a little unfrozen water in our neighborhoods can do to help stem the freezing death of a few birds. Why would we not offer some open water if our circumstances permit? Kindness begins in our own back yard.
Compassion takes many forms and always requires some work. The more we work to accomplish the little things that help relieve suffering in our own corner of the world, the more the wold becomes a better place for all beings. Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”