Spring is officially here bringing new life to the garden including the return of my favorite feathered friends. I don’t know about you, but I love wild birds. What these small creatures endure, how far they travel, and their nearly constant motion amaze me. After a rainstorm, I often go outside and listen to their fluttering movements as they frantically forage for food. And I love finding easy ways, like making bird feeders, to entice them into my yard.
Why Make a Bird Feeder?
This easy project is a fun way to spend time together as a family and teach your kids to appreciate wildlife right in your own backyard.
As the weather changes, some bird species migrate away, others visit your area while migrating through and still others stay close to home to stick out the winter months. With this project, you can help feed local and traveling birds any time of year.
There are other benefits to feeding the birds as well. When you attract birds to your yard, they will help with insect control, weed control (they’ll eat seeds found in weeds, preventing them from spreading in your landscaping) and will help cross-pollinate flowers and plants.
- Large pinecones
- Peanut butter (almond butter or vegetable shortening can also be used for people with nut allergies)
- String or wire
- Butter knife
- Baking dish (or container large enough to comfortably roll pinecone in birdseed)
1. Prepare Pinecones
First, gather some pinecones. They should be medium to large in size. If you live somewhere with pine trees, you can take the kids on a nature treasure hunt to find pinecones. Or you could plan a nature walk or hike somewhere nearby. If there aren’t any available nearby, you can buy pinecones at most craft stores.
Check your pinecones. If they’re tightly closed up, let them sit inside the house for several days so they can “bloom,” or bake them in a 300° oven for about 10 minutes to get them to open up.
Caution: Some pinecones have sharp points on the tips of their petals, so be sure you and your kids handle them with care to avoid getting poked.
Once you have open pinecones, you can string or wire to the tip.
2. Spread the Peanut Butter
Use a butter knife to spread peanut butter all over the pinecone. Be sure to get it into all the cracks and crevices to fully coat your pinecone in peanut butter.
Fun Fact! Peanut butter could be considered the perfect bird food. It’s high in fat and full of protein. These are food qualities that are important to wild birds any time of the year. This is especially true in the winter when birds really need a boost.
3. Cover It in Birdseed
Once your pinecone is covered in peanut butter (or allergy free alternative), pour the birdseed into a baking dish and get ready to roll. Roll the pinecone back and forth in the birdseed to completely cover it. Once it’s covered, press the birdseed into the peanut butter and roll some more.
Once your pinecone is completely covered in birdseed, take it outside and find the perfect place to hang it.
4. Hang Bird Feeders Outside
Hang your bird feeder outside a window or other area where you can enjoy watching the birds come to eat. Make sure to hang your bird feeder high enough that cats and dogs won’t be a problem for the birds that come to visit. If the branches are thick, you might need to add more string or wire to attach your pinecone to the tree.
5. Enjoy and Educate
It won’t take long for birds to discover the treat you made for them. Watch your pinecone bird feeders for a while and see what happens. You can even use binoculars to get a better view.
When your kids observe birds at the bird feeders they’ve made, be sure to talk about what they see and encourage them to identify the different species that visit. This will hone their skills in observation and research and will help them develop an appreciation of nature.
Try to identify the birds by what they look like or the calls they make. There are plenty of bird identification websites and guide books to help learn about bird watching. You can even enter your zip code and print a list of birds commonly seen in your area. You can also talk about why birds migrate and which species don’t.
I hope you and your children have a wonderful time making bird feeders and observing the birds that visit your backyard. It’s a great way to spend time together and appreciate nature!
On a final note, I will conclude this post with some wise words from one of my favorite movies…
“Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry, their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you”
– Mary Poppins