White-throated Sparrow Taking an Icy Bath

This morning when I came downstairs, a White-throated Sparrow was sitting on the rim of the birdbath trying to sip water from around the edges – most of the water was frozen solid. So I took out a pitcher of warm water and poured it onto the ice, and it was only a few minutes before a number of birds began to come again.

The day was cold and half-cloudy with only a pale blue sky and veiled sunlight. A Carolina Wren sat on top of a large bush by the front porch and sang brightly. Several of our most familiar birds were visiting both feeders – Chipping Sparrows, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse. White-throated Sparrows and Northern Cardinals scratched in the thick leaf-cover under the feeders and around all the shrubs. The bare-limbed oaks and pecan trees overhead seemed mostly empty, but I saw a couple of small birds and heard the chip calls of Yellow-rumped Warblers. An Eastern Towhee sat high in the branches of a crape myrtle and called its rich chur-whee.

A White-throated Sparrow and a Chickadee were among the first birds to come for water – one on each side. Then I was happy to see a big, handsome Brown Thrasher come and stay long enough to take several drinks, before diving back into the nearby cover of azalea shrubs. Then a very pretty Eastern Bluebird flew to the birdbath rim and also stayed to take several sips. In the misty morning light, its colors looked muted and soft, like an Impressionist painting. 

It was later in the morning when I looked out our living room windows to check out the birdbath again – the temperature still below freezing – and there sat a White-throated Sparrow, right in the middle of the water, its neatly-outlined white throat and gray breast, and black-and-white striped crown, and warm, streaked brown back all looking clean and sparkling. It dunked itself fully under the water, raised its head and shook all over, and then submerged again, and again, taking a good full bath, as if the day were as balmy as May. When it flew away and into the cover of the bushes, I could see many shards of ice still floating on the surface of the water. 

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