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Now that the temperature is getting colder, birds are looking for food.

During the winter, birds use different strategies to deal with the cold:

  • Some birds migrate or travel somewhere warmer during the coldest months of the year. 
  • Others stay where they are and make sure to eat lots to stay warm. (These birds benefit from people providing a variety of food.)

Some of the most common birds we see at feeders during the winter are Cardinals, Goldfinches, Chickadees, House and Purple Finches, Dark-eyed Juncos, and several types of Woodpeckers.

Some winter birds prefer fruit, others are predators and like mealworms, and many enjoy seeds. Almost all of them like peanut butter suet! (One way we can determine what kind of food a bird likes is by the shape of it’s beak.)

This month, we have multiple activities all focusing on winter birds. 

The following tasks are all available below: how to build your own birdfeeder, how to make birdseed biscuits or suet, learning about what birds eat, and learning about which birds visit your feeder.

*Ask an adult to join you in doing these activities.*


Activities for December:


Building a Bird Feeder

Bird feeders come in many shapes and sizes. Some are designed for specific types of seed; others are designed to keep squirrels out. Let’s make ours from recycled materials.


The goal of a bird feeder is to:

  • make birds feel safe (so they can see what is around)
  • keep the seed dry in the rain (or drain easily)
  • stay fairly stable in the wind
  • is someplace where you can see it easily (hanging, platform, etc.)

With the help of an adult, it’s easy to make your own feeder using anything from a square milk container to a round yogurt container!

Supplies:

  • scissors or box cutter (ask an adult for help)
  • single hole punch or skewer
  • string
  • thin wooden dowels or spoons


Directions:

  1. Wash out your desired container and let it dry completely.
  2. Then, very carefully, cut out several small holes along the sides near the bottom. Make sure they are large enough for a bird’s head to fit inside, but small enough that a bird will not be able to climb inside.
  3. Punch two small holes about the size of your dowels on opposite side of your container, just below the openings you have cut.
  4. Insert the dowels into these holes so that the ends of the wood stick out on both sides. (These will serve as perches for the feeding birds.)
  5. Punch two holes at the top of your container and thread a string through in a large loop.
  6. Fill your new feeder with desired birdseed and hang near your house. (Be sure to hang it somewhere you can see so you can watch the birds enjoy it.)

There are multiple ways to make bird feeders, including making the feeder out of food itself. We can make our own suet or, with adult help, we can make bird seed biscuits.

Building a Pinecone Bird Feeder

First, let’s see what ingredients we have.

  • If we have peanut butter and seeds, mix them together and coat the outside of pinecone(s) after tying a string to the pinecone(s). Once coated, hang the pinecone(s) outside. (It’s best to put them in a place that you’ll be able to see later. This way you can watch the birds enjoying your creation.)
  • If we have a package of suet, we can use the directions as follows. Heat up the suet package. Once melted, we can stir in peanut butter, oatmeal, bird seed, and fruit. Let the mixture cool before coating pinecone(s) with it. (Hang the pinecone(s) outside and enjoy the view of birds snacking on such a tasty treat.)


Bird Seed Biscuits

Supplies:

  • 2 cups of biscuit baking mix
  • 2 cups of wild bird seed
  • ½ cup cold water 
  • 2 tablespoons of margarine 
  • sesame seeds
  • sunflower seeds 
  • peanut butter  
  • a straw
  • some ribbon

Directions:

Mix together 2 cups of biscuit baking mix, 2 cups of wild bird seed, and ½ cup cold water. Roll out dough until 3/4 inches thick and cut it into shapes with cookie cutters. Using a straw, punch a hole in the top of each cookie. Melt 2 tablespoons of margarine and brush over the dough. Sprinkle sesame and sunflower seeds onto the dough and press in firmly with a fork or coat with peanut butter after cooling and add seeds. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 425° , until light brown. When cool, thread ribbon through the hole and hang in a tree.

Who eats what?

Now that we have our bird feeder out, let’s see what birds come. If we put out a variety of birdseed, we can watch to see what birds are attracted to each food.

Using the chart below, make a mark for every kind of bird you see.

Here’s a good tip to decide if it’s the same bird or a different one:

If you see one bird, and right after it leaves, you see another that looks just like it, we don’t know if it is the same one, so it’s best to count it as only one. But if you see two or more birds alike, at the same time, then you know for a fact there is more than one.

*a printable version of the graph can be found here*

BIRD

 

TYPE OF FEEDER

TYPE OF FOOD

THE FOOD IT TRIED

THE BIRDS WE SAW

Northern Cardinal (male)

 

ground tray, post, tube feeder

sunflower, safflower, peanuts, insects, cracked corn,

white millet, white bread, melon seeds, raisins, bananas

 

 

Northern Cardinal (female)

Same as above

Same as above

 

 

House Finch/ Purple Finch

high post, hanging and tube feeders

sunflower, safflower, thistle, insects, peanuts, suet mixtures, white and red millet

 

 

Blue Jay

ground, any seed or suet feeders

insects, whole corn, striped sunflower, peanuts, suet mixtures

 

 

Black-capped or Carolina Chickadee

any type of feeder or the ground

sunflower, safflower, suet mixtures, peanuts, thistle, peanut butter, insects, sugar water, pie crust     

 

 

Mourning Dove

ground or low tray/post feeders 

cracked corn, white and red millet, safflower, thistle, wheat

 

 

 

Goldfinch (winter plumage)

             

 

 

Hanging feeders, tube feeders, thistle feeders/socks

Thistle seeds, sunflower seeds

 

 



Thanks for trying our activity! We hope you had fun!


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