The Avant-Garden Shop: Your Garden & Bird Store

Providing Water for your Birds

Bird waterer

A water supply is a great way to attract birds to your yard along with a supply of food. Birds need water for drinking, bathing, and to dunk their food. Birdbaths come in many different styles and are constructed from several types of materials. They are made from concrete, ceramic, metal, plastic, and wood. You can purchase birdbaths that are pedestal type, hanging, or deck mounted. Other items such as garbage can lids and water trays off planters can be used for a birdbath. Birdbaths can be used to help accent your landscaping, as well as attract birds that do not visit your feeders such as the robin, thrush and warblers.


IMPORTANT FEATURES: Shallow, gently sloped sides, centre depth of 2 – 3 inches, small song birds prefer a depth of 1 – 1.5 inches, ledge to perch and nearby perches to preen. Use a small rock pile to help birds access the water if the edge of your birdbath is steep.

LOCATION: Near shrubbery or other shelter could be raised into branches of tree for shelter.

NOISE: The sound of water will attract birds, could be dripping, running or a light mist.

CLEANING: Hose clean regularly (daily in hot weather) and scrub occasionally.

WINTER NOTES: Remember birds like a water source during the winter as well, so clean and refill in below freezing temperatures. Heated bird baths are a great way to easily provide water throughout the year. New types can be deck mounted or pole mounted and come with automatic thermostats so the heaters only run when necessary. Note: ceramic may crack if water freezes


Water is an important requirement when attracting birds. Many birds eat insects and berries (rather than seed you provide) and will visit just to use a birdbath for bathing and for drinking. This is a year round requirement and care should be taken to keep the water clean (as well thawed in the winter). Visit to see a sample of what is available in the store as well as online.

Winter Bird Feeding

Pileated woodpecker

Feeding wild birds in Canada during the winter months requires some special consideration. Canadian winters are very cold and the nights are long, sources of water are often frozen and shelter remains a must for many fragile birds. Even grit, which birds require in order to digest food, can become quite scarce in midwinter when the snow is deep. A simple thing like feeder maintenance can make all the difference in the world.

Many birds feed during the day only and thus require enough food to sustain warmth during the long winter nights. In Canada, the winter nights can last up to 15 hours and for some birds, the relationship between the length of night, cold temperatures and the availability of food, will determine survival. A study by Kendeigh (1945) illustrates this relationship as it affects the House Sparrow. The study found that the House Sparrow could go for 67 1/2 hours without food at 85 degrees Fahrenheit. At 50 degrees, there was a substantial decrease in survival time. At 5 degrees, the House Sparrow could survive only 15 hours without food. At -20 F, it could live only 10 hours, and at -30 F, lived for only 7 hours.

It is critical that food is available to birds at dawn and at dusk, to enable birds to survive the long and cold Canadian nights. Food at dusk will prepare a bird for the night, and at dawn, food will provide warmth to help it recover from the night. Corn is a good source of carbohydrates, which in turn gives birds energy to stay warm. Suet is also a good source of high-energy food for warmth. So when your seed supplier advertises, “No Corn” mixes, add some corn to the seed to help keep the birds warm!

There are other ways to help birds endure the cold. Roosting boxes offer excellent shelter by increasing the temperature of the immediate surrounding area for the inhabitant. Cardinals will stay overnight in dense coniferous trees – perhaps a good use for discarded Christmas trees!

Another winter difficulty faced by birds is the availability of fresh water. Some birds have difficulty consuming snow as a source of water and thus fresh water is preferable. Bird enthusiasts can help by providing a heater in the birdbath or there are birdbaths with heaters built in.

Proper feeder maintenance will ensure that an ample amount of bird feed will be available to help keep the birds warm. Be sure to keep the tray of the feeder free of ice and frozen seed. Sometimes the seed will freeze and block the flow of seed and even though it will look as if the feeder is full, the birds will not have access to the vital nourishment. Keep the seed as dry as possible and this will prove to be good prevention at locations such as cottages where maintenance may only be performed occasionally.

Finally, the availability of grit diminishes in the winter, as the snow grows deeper. Birds are often forced to find grit on the roadway, which presents two problems. Firstly, there is the obvious threat of traffic, and second, the grit on the road is often mixed with salt and birds would be better off without the salt. The Season’s Woodland Bird Food Mix from The Avant-Garden Shop has grit mixed in during the fall and winter months!

Remember that as the winter passes, the natural sources of food will be consumed and backyard bird feeding will become increasingly important in providing our Canadian wild birds with the sustenance they need to survive the long winter and to endure until nature begins to provide again.

Original article written by by Mark Bennett of Wild Bird Trading


Discouraging Large Birds

Caged feeder

Need help managing larger birds in your yard?

There are lots of tricks at your disposal to discourage larger birds from invading your feeders! Choosing the right feeder is the best place to start.

Globe Feeders ? Baffles ? Diversion Feeders ? Weight sensitive Feeders

Who isn’t discouraged when…large birds descend on our bird feeders, frightening off our smaller birds? Yet blue jays, grackles, redwing blackbirds, doves and pigeons are native birds and they have their place in Nature’s scheme of things. We can welcome them, but on our terms, not theirs! With knowledge of specific feeders and food choices, we can manage the larger birds and allow our small birds to feed in peace.

Let’s take advantage of the fact that chickadees, nuthatches and titmice are agile clingers who easily feed at small, free-swinging globe feeders with no perches. Globe feeders are available in various sizes we can help you decide which size works best for your individual large bird issue. Fill your globe with black oil sunflower seed, loved by small birds and not so much by larger birds. Large birds find it virtually impossible to balance on free-swinging perchless globes and will soon leave them alone.

Here’s a quick solution to protecting your suet feeder from invaders–simply hang a dome shaped baffle over your suet basket to prevent starlings and grackles from landing. Baffles are available in metal or plastic.

Weight sensitive feeders such as the Squirrel Buster Plus have mechanisms that shroud access to seed. This spring device can be adjusted to disallow some heavier birds such as Grackles and Pigeons. If the large birds do a little flying dance, while holding onto the cardinal ring, and gain access to a few seeds, try removing the cardinal ring and shortening the perches. (Remember to loosen and retighten the wing nut on the bottom of the feeder to adjust the perch length.) This makes it pretty much impossible for these birds to grab any seeds since they are just too big and not agile enough to hold on to the small perches and flutter long enough. They give up pretty quickly. I have also found that if you deter access to your feeders for a couple of weeks, the birds go away and most often don’t return. You can add your cardinal ring again once the birds are gone for a couple of weeks.

Caged feeders are another option to keep large birds away. They are feeders such as the Droll Yankees tube feeder enclosed in a cage. Only the small birds can fit through the cage openings, eliminating the large birds from gaining access to the seeds as well as the squirrels. It can take a while for birds to get use to these feeders, so I suggest that you remove your other feeders to encourage the birds to go to the new feeder. Once they begin using it, you can bring back your other feeders.

Finally, set up a diversion feeding area for those big birds, and locate it well away from the smaller feeders. For this you want a large and broad platform feeder with plenty of room to land and perch. Fill it with inexpensive seed blends that include corn and millet, favourite foods of blackbirds and doves. Add peanuts and a few sunflower seeds for the jays. Squirrels will be diverted to this area as well. Platform feeders range from simple models constructed of wood, to long-lasting durable resin materials.

With the smaller birds on their special feeders and the large birds congregating on the platform feeder, you’ll enjoy a greater variety of birds in a peaceful setting!

Available at The Avant-Garden Shop: Caged feeders, Globe feeders, Squirrel Buster Plus, Tube feeders, Perch less tube feeders, Baffles

The Avant-Garden Shop