Outdoor Classroom! February 2014

Outdoor Classroom

It can be very exciting to get up on a cold winter morning and watch birds feeding at an outdoor feeder.  Your family can learn a great deal about birds by watching them each day. Naturally, throughout the winter many birds change some of their eating habits.  Birds that usually eat insects may start to eat berries to supplement their diets.  Birds must look for reliable sources of food for wintertime survival.

The shorter days and cold, long nights of winter can be very stressful for most backyard birds.  Their natural food supply has been consumed or is hidden by snow and most insects are dead or dormant.  Water can be hard to find, and food needed to provide the energy to keep them warm might be scarce.  To keep up a bird’s high metabolic rate, most need to eat rich energy foods like seeds, insects and suet.  Birds need to find food easily, so a full birdfeeder can be very beneficial to them.  A well-fed bird is often better prepared to deal with sudden drops in temperature and more likely to survive a difficult winter storm.  Constructing a few simple bird feeds as a family can prove to be a fun–and rewarding activity–for even very young children.

Bird feeders don’t have to be expensive nor anything fancy.  They only have to hold bird seed and be easily strung from a tree or the eaves of your house.  Doing so will discourage raccoons and squirrels from gobbling up the seed in a few short minutes.  You should strive to locate all feeders out of the wind; the east or southeast side of the house or near a row of trees is ideal.  It is best to have a perching spot such as a bush or tree nearby so the birds can survey the feeding area and keep an eye out for predators.

Bird feeders can be made out of almost anything.  Some fun and easy ones are easily made from items found in your kitchen.

  • Orange Bowls This organic bird feeder is made from a half orange shell, the kind that remains after making fresh squeezed orange juice.  To make this feeder, simply smear a little peanut butter inside the orange bowl and then fill with bird seed.  Hang from a tree using florist’s wire that has been pierced through the skin of the orange.
  • Bagel BitesHave some bagels that have started to dry out?  Smear one side with a little lard, then roll in bird seed.  Tie a string through the bagel, hang from a tree, and watch the birds gobble down seed, bagel and all!
  • Cereal NecklaceThese simple bird feeders are made from stringing “O” shaped cereal onto pieces of twine to create short necklaces.  Suspend these nifty cereal necklaces from a tree or fence.