Prepare to Winterize! Preparing Birdbaths for Winter


It’s that time of year when I start looking around my backyard to see which items to store before the cold weather arrives. If you’re doing that too, you may be wondering about the birdbath you bought this spring.


Before you can answer the question of whether to leave your birdbath outside for the winter, you must first figure out whether your birdbath can survive wintry conditions. If you have a birdbath that’s winter hardy, then the question becomes whether you’re willing to keep it filled with heated water this winter. Now, let’s dive in to the world of wintry birdbaths!


Types of Birdbaths to Store

Some of us like to take a break after a busy season of keeping the birdbath clean and full. But perhaps you’re willing to keep up the work throughout the winter. If you plan to provide water for birds during the winter, your birdbath may not be the best solution. Remember, you can always put out a dish of water for birds. I’ve seen birds drinking out of a dog’s water dish. They’re not that picky!

Bird appreciate drinking water in the winter. Image by Jeffrey W.
Birds appreciate drinking water in the winter. Image by Jeffrey W.


The types of birdbaths that should be stored during winter months to prevent damage include concrete, ceramic, stone, solar and glass, including mosaics.


Adding a heater to a birdbath doesn’t change the equation. Even with a heater, birdbaths can still sustain damage during the winter months. Better safe than broken! And, speaking of being safe, it’s best to store your birdbath before temperatures dip.


Before storing your birdbath, clean it and allow it to dry completely. Store it in the garage or your storage unit. If you absolutely can’t move a heavy or extra-bulky birdbath, cover it carefully with heavy plastic or a tarp, and secure the protective material at the base of the birdbath.


Types of Birdbaths to Winterize

Birdbaths that may be left outside during the winter months are made out of metal or plastic. The darker the color of the birdbath, the warmer it will stay in winter. But even metal or plastic birdbaths need some help in the winter.


To winterize your birdbath, follow these steps:

  • Empty and clean the birdbath.
  • Move the birdbath to the sunniest location that’s workable with an extension cord.
  • Dust off your immersible heater, or invest in a new one. Place it in the birdbath, and connect it with an outdoor extension cord.
  • Fill the bowl with fresh water.
  • Maintain an acceptable water level. Very low water levels may damage the heater. Plus, the more water you have, the less likely it is to freeze.

Tip: If you live in an area with moderate winters and you don’t want to add a heater, drop some plastic balls into the water bowl. Their movement will help prevent freezing.


Of course, some serious birders invest in a fully heated birdbath. If you fall into that category, get your fully heated birdbath out of storage as soon as possible and complete an inspection before the cold weather arrives.


If there's enough food, some birds stay put instead of migrating for winter. Image by John Benson.
If there’s enough food, some birds stay put instead of migrating. Image by John Benson.

What’s All the Fuss?

Do the birds really want your water, and how many hang out for winter anyhow? Yes, birds do need water in the winter, and they greatly appreciate heated birdbaths! Think about it for a second. If you were a bird, wouldn’t you prefer to just drink water rather than melting snow in your beak first? And, contrary to the myth, birds don’t bathe in water when temperatures are below freezing. They’re smart, those birds.


So, the birds do want your water, but do they hang around in the winter? Most of us grow up thinking that the birds we see all summer fly south for the winter. However, many migrating birds stay put if there’s adequate food present at their breeding grounds. According to Birds and Blooms, bluebirds, finches, owls and American robins may stay put instead of migrating. In addition to those birds, you can expect to see many wonderful birds that more commonly visit in the winter. And those thirsty birds would love a drink!


Do you store your birdbath indoors for the winter? If you leave your birdbath outside, how do you prevent ice formation in the bowl?