Feeding The Birds - A Family Project
by Brenda Hyde
Making Feathered Friends
Bird watching is a fun, inexpensive activity for families. You can reserve a special space for bird feeders anywhere in your yard, and throughout the year watch the variety of birds that come to visit. Here some tips for feeding the birds:
Buy inexpensive feeders; many are under $5.00, and the birds just love them. You can also make tray feeders out of scrap wood and place them on the ground. Get creative! Try different things and see how the birds respond. Some birds will eat from the ground, and others only from the hanging feeders. This is a great "experiment" for the kids. They can record their findings in a Nature Notebook, which they can decorate themselves!
Place feeders near trees or bushes if possible, or anywhere that makes the birds feel sheltered. Do not place above your flower beds if you have another location available; the seed can sprout and can make a mess. However, I've placed a feeder over a flower bed just for the winter and it worked out well!
The cheaper the bird seed, the more filler it has. But, if you have a lot of squirrels, chipmunks or Mourning Doves, they will clean it up and you will get a nice variety of birds. Buy according to your budget. Sunflower seeds and thistle will bring different song birds, and downy woodpeckers, but it is more expensive. If you check grain elevators or farm supply stores; you can often find large bags at a good price. Just remember, you can throw out leftover bread, rolls, cereal, or even donuts and the birds will eat it. The kids and the birds are not picky.
Look for beef suet in the meat section of the grocery store. During the cold months it can be cut into pieces and hung in mesh bags that hold oranges or onions. It can also be melted in a pan on low heat and you can add peanut butter and bird seed then pour into molds, (washed tuna cans will work) and hang from branches. Pinecones can also be coated with suet and dipped in seed as well.
- Make fun little feed holders from grapefruit that has been halved. Enjoy scooping out the pulp for your breakfast, then "stab" the half on a nail that has been hammer through a board, and fill it with seed.
A Learning Activity
After the kids have a chance to see several types of birds at the feeders, ask each child to pick one of the birds they like best (or assign them if they quarrel over this!). Have them read about their bird-or if they are too young you can read it aloud for them. Use the library, online resources or your own bird reference books. Have each child draw the bird and color it, but go further and have them draw what they think the nest and the eggs would look like from the descriptions in the books. Give each child an inexpensive notebook to keep their project in, plus other things they observe about the birds. What seed do they like best? What birds use the feeder? When do they eat? Are some more friendly than others? When spring arrives, they'll notice changes in the birds and this is neat to talk about too!
"Bird Food" For Kids
As you are learning about the birds make these fun "Bird Snacks" with your kids for lunch or snack time!
Bird Cakes: Spread cream cheese on rice cakes. Use raisins, sunflower seeds, crushed nuts, and chocolate sprinkles to push into the cake so it looks a little like a "suet cake" that the birds enjoy.
You can also soften cream cheese with a little milk and form into balls, then slightly flatten with your hand to form a cake. Press the cake into any of the above items that have been placed on a plate, then serve on crackers.
Kid Feed: In a large bowl mix together sunflower seeds (the shelled variety for people), peanuts, mini chocolate chips, and raisins. Depending on how much you want to make you can use 1 cup each or equal amounts more or less. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Meanwhile buy and wash an inexpensive plastic bird feeder-making sure it's completely dry. Serve your "kid feed" in the bird feeder for a memorable snack time! Be sure to take pictures, so each child has one to glue in their Nature Notebook.
Have fun, experiment, and let the kids learn about nature. Watching and listening to the birds is relaxing for adults, so the whole family benefits!
Brenda Hyde is a wife and mom to three kids living in the Midwest United States. She is also the editor of http://oldfashionedliving.com. For more features on nature projects, gardening with kids and other activities sign up for Brenda's monthly Treehouse Notes by emailing: Parenting_Tipsfirstname.lastname@example.org
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