How to Feed the Birds, a Family Activity
Did you know that even in spring, food is still scarce for birds? It's too cool yet for many insect populations, and there won't be any fruit on trees until harvest time.
Feeding birds in the winter is a great family activity. It helps the birds too!
FIRST DO SOME STUDYING & READING
Check out the bird photo library here:
Learn about the different birds!
http://www.gardenartisans.com/birdhouses.html offers a 64-page color flip book called "Early Bird: Common Backyard Birds," with pictures of birds and migratory maps. You can learn to identify and at tract birds to your yard. Also contains drawings and measurements for building birdhouses to suit specific birds. Only $5.95.
Download free kids kit "Learn about Backyard Birds" at
And go here to learn bird songs and calls:
WHAT TO FEED THE BIRDS?
There are tons of products available for feeding birds. In most locations, however, the best bet for attracting birds is black-oil sunflower seed. It's got a high meat-to-shell ratio, it's high in fat, and it's small size and thin shell make it easy for small birds to handle and crack. (The striped version is larger and has a harder shell.) You'll want to attract smaller birds, because larger birds like starlings, doves and grackles can cause quite a mess and are very noisy as well.
Never feed birds spoiled leftovers, salty snack foods or sugary cereals. Also NEVER chocolate. Chocolate contains an ingredient called theobromine, which is toxic to birds as well as dogs and cats.
Only use peanut butter if you mix it with seed. Alone, it can choke birds.
Different feed attracts different birds. Here's a chart that will tell you about this:
- Place your feeders where you can see them, but also where the birds can get away quickly in case of predators - like the family cat.
- Consider what's UNDER the feeder, because it's going to get bird poop on it.
- Vary the heights of your feeders for fun watching.
- Wash your feeders at least twice a year. Recommends using a solution of 10% bleach and wearing gloves and a mask.
Birds also need water so if you put it out, they'll come. According to Cornell U., birds prefer water at ground level (you can just use a dish or shallow pan), but if there's a cat-danger, raise it 2-3' above ground.
- Put sand in the bottom to help the birds get their footing
- Change the water every couple of days to keep it fresh
- Put some branches or stones in there so the birds can stand on them and drink without getting wet. This is important in the winter.
MAKE YOUR OWN FEEDERS
Bird feeders don't need to be purchased, expensive or elaborate.
http://www.osweb.com/kidzkorner/feeder.htm gives some great homemade feeder specs including these two:
- Punch holes on either side of a plastic pop bottle, stick a twig all the way through with its ends sticking out for perches and poking more holes nearby for the birds to pull the seeds out. Then hang the bottle by tying a string around its neck. (Finches really like these!)
- Coat a pine cone with peanut butter, roll it in birdseed, and hang it from a tree branch.
You can order a birdhouse kit here that you can make with your children:
EXTEND THE LEARNING PROJECT
Take photographs of the birds and make a scrapbook about this family activity.
Your child can also submit their own stories, articles, activities, poems and artwork here:
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About the Author
Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Susan offers coaching, distance learning courses, and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional development. She also trains and certifies EQ coaches. Free ezine: firstname.lastname@example.org. Get Daily EQ tips; send a blank email to EQ4Uemail@example.com.
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