For birds, food may remain scarce even in the spring until it warms enough to bring out the worms, bugs, seeds and fruit they need. Keep more birds around, longer, by providing feeders full of their favorite foods. When you set up the bird feeder early in the year and maintain it year round, the birds will come to know your place, like a famous restaurant, and even more will come. Before adding any food to your bird feeder, check that it is safe for all birds.
Natural Bird Feeders
Natural bird feeders are perfect no matter where you live. Not only do they typically cost less to make, since most or all of the parts come from nature instead of the store, they’re also a “greener” choice. The best part? These bird feeders are kid-friendly projects, so you can get your whole family involved.
- Pinecone bird feeders are the perfect bird feeder for your child to prepare, and you can hang them almost anywhere. To make one, gather one or more pine tree cones – the bigger and more open the better. To keep mess at a minimum, work over newspaper or a cookie sheet. First, tie a length of twine, yarn or similar string around the pinecone and tie the free ends together to create a hanging loop. Next, spread peanut butter over the cone, working some of it deep into the center. Finally, sprinkle birdseed all over the cone, then roll it in the seeds to work it deeply into the peanut butter and cone. An all-purpose seed appeals to most birds.
- Orange peel feeders make fun, all-natural food sources. Best of all, some birds will even eat the peel! For a simple feeder, try a variation of the pinecone bird feeder: Peel an orange, making the longest continuous peel possible. Punch a hole, using a screwdriver or other tool, in the center of one end of the peel. Loop twine or other string through the hole and tie it to hang. Carefully spread peanut butter over both sides of the peel, then coat with birdseed and other bird feed goodies, depending on the birds you wish to attract.
- A whole orange feeder uses the entire orange, minus the fruit inside. Substitute a grapefruit for the orange if desired. Simply cut the fruit in half and use a spoon to scoop out the fruit inside. Use a sharp object to punch three holes through the peel about .25 to .5 inch from the top rim (where the fruit was cut in half). Space the holes out so each is about the same distance from the other two holes, like an equilateral triangle. Thread a length of yarn, twine or other string through each hole and gather the free ends together to tie in a knot for hanging. You can fill the orange shell with birdseed alone, but coating the inside with peanut butter first helps prevent seed spillage.
- A coconut shell bird feeder is another variation that lasts longer than orange peel and pinecone feeders – if you don’t keep it filled, you could even find a bird nest filling it some day. To make one, use a drill or hammer and nail to create three holes equally spaced around the coconut before cutting it apart. Punch two holes, directly across from each other, near the bottom of the coconut if desired. Run a skewer through the hole and leave an inch or two hanging out either side to make a little perch for birds that enjoy the fruit but have a harder time without a perch, like orioles. Also, if the temperature is cool but not freezing, leave the coconut meat intact to provide a treat for fruit-loving birds. Otherwise, hollow out the shell before filling it with seed and hanging it. Never feed desiccated coconut – meaning with all moisture removed – to any bird.
- A gourd bird feeder attracts smaller birds, which can jump inside if they feel threatened. Plus, it lasts longer than most other natural bird feeders and comes with an attached cover – the top of the gourd – to keep the food from getting soggy or moldy. Gourd feeders are treated similarly to coconut bird feeders. Shake and slap a dried gourd to loosen the seeds inside. Draw window-shaped openings 1 to 1.5 inches wide and tall in four places about halfway down the gourd, directly across from each other. Working carefully, cut out the openings with a craft saw or hacksaw blade. Shake out the seeds. Drill a hole an inch or two beneath the openings and insert a long twig, skewer or similar item through each set of holes. Allow an overhang on either side to create a perch. Finally, drill three or four small holes in the bottom, to allow ventilation and drainage, and another set of holes directly across from each other near the top of the gourd’s neck. Thread twine or yarn through the top two holes and tie them together to hang. Fill the gourd with seed suited to birds in your area.
Recycled Bird Feeders
Sure, recycled bird feeders may not use all-natural parts, but they do repurpose items that may otherwise rot in a landfill. Here are a couple ideas to get you started.
- Milk carton bird feeders make good temporary bird feeders for smaller birds. Actually, you can use any cardboard juice, milk or similar container as long as it is washed well and isn’t too large – lunchroom size is perfect. Two or 3 inches from the bottom of the carton, draw a hole on both the carton’s front and back. Make the opening square or arched, depending on your preference, and almost as wide as the carton itself. Use a utility knife to carefully cut and remove the openings. Poke holes directly across from each other an inch or two below the feeder openings, and run a long twig, skewer or other suitable object through the milk carton to create a perch. Punch another hole through the seam at the top of the carton, then thread twine or even fishing line through the hole to hang the feeder.
- A plastic bottle bird feeder is a variation on the previous designs. Clean a 1- or 2-liter bottle and cut two to four square or triangular food openings 2 or 3 inches from the bottom, with each hole directly across from each other. Make the holes large enough for a bird to stick its neck in to get seed near the bottom – perhaps 1 to 1.5 inches square. Poke a hole about an inch below each hole, and run a twig, skewer or dowel through the set of holes, leaving an overhang to create a perch. To hang the bird feeder, make a hole in the center of the cap and run a length of twine or other string through it, then knot the bottom end to prevent it from slipping through the cap. Alternatively, insert a screw eye into the cap and place a nut on the end. Run wire or fish line through the eye for hanging.