On February 23, 1994, February was declared ‘National Bird Feeding Month’ by Congress.
If you want to narrow things down to one day, February 3 is ‘Feed the Birds Day.’
February is one of the hardest months of the year for many animals in North America, especially those who depend on seeds and plants for food.
That would make it the perfect time to start a new hobby – bird watching! According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, over 45 million people in the country participate in bird watching at home and at work. It doesn’t require special skills or equipment. In fact, feeding birds can be very easy and fun, especially when you make your own feeders, and place them where you can watch the birds come and go during the day. Keeping a camera or cell phone handy would allow you to start a photo album of local birds, which could easily become a fun and educational program for all ages.
Here’s a chart of birds and their favorite seeds to help potential bird feeders get started feeding their winter neighbors:
Bird Seed Feeding Reference Chart
Looking to attract specific birds to your backyard? Like you and me, each bird has a different seed preference. Coax them to your bird feeder with the right seed!
|Baltimore Oriole||Nectar, oranges, apples, berries, peanut butter|
|Black Capped Chickadee||Safflower, Sunflower seed, Suet|
|Blue Jay||Sunflower seed|
|Cardinal||Sunflower seeds, Safflower|
|Common Grackle||Cracked Corn, Millet|
|Dark-Eyed Junco||Millet, Thistle|
|Evening Grosbeak||Sunflower seeds|
|Goldfinch||Sunflower seeds, Thistle|
|House Finch||Millet, Sunflower seeds|
|House Sparrow||Millet, Thistle|
|Mourning Dove||Millet, Cracked corn|
|Northern Mockingbird||Fruit, Sunflower seed|
|Purple Finch||Sunflower seed, Thistle|
|Red-Winged Blackbird||Cracked Corn, Millet|
|Sparrow – House, Song, Tree, White-Throated||Millet|
|Tufted Titmouse||Sunflower seeds|
|Woodpecker – Downy, Hairy||Sunflower seeds, Suet|
There are lots of ways to make bird feeders in the library as program crafts. Some are simple and quick.
Others can be as complicated as one would like.
With storytime groups, I have smeared peanut butter on pinecones with a string tied around the end, and the children rolled them in birdseed spread out in a baking dish. We dropped the coated pinecones in ziplock bags for the trip home, where families could hang them outside a window and watch for the birds to discover the treats. An even simpler feeder could be made by smearing peanut butter around a toilet paper roll, rolling it in a tray of birdseed, running a piece of string through the center of the cardboard cylinder, and hanging it somewhere convenient for birds to discover and for people to watch through the window.
I also found some videos demonstrating other methods of creating bird feeders with children. Here are some of them:
This blogpost at Happy Hooligans is full of great ideas for making bird feeders with children. It even has one built of LEGO’s! And here is another that ranges from the extremely simple (half an orange peelfilled with seed) to one that requires a bit of effort.
Here are some recipes for suet. It’s a bit more complicated, but provides fat that birds desperately need during the coldest periods of the winter.
Another recipe for suet, using lard:
This is a tutorial for making a feeder out of plastic bottles:
You can expand the program using the resources available on the Cornell Lab website. There are lessons and activities grouped by grade here. There are online games about birds. A multitude of interesting and educational videos can be found here. Here’s a place where you can learn to identify bird songs. There are also online courses about birds and bird identification, nature journaling, and PD courses on teaching children citizen science. Using the Celebrating Urban Birds kit, people can learn to identify birds by sight and by silhouette. There are also bird identification apps that can be downloaded to help program participants identify the birds that visit their bird feeders. Using the apps, they can become citizen scientists, themselves, and help scientists study the birds that visit their DIY bird feeders.
Making bird feeders and bird food is a way to stay connected to nature when it’s too cold to play outside, and to learn about and help animals who often suffer during these coldest of months. And it’s a lot of fun to be able to look out the window and know the names of the birds feasting at a bird feeder that you built yourself!