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Bird Feeders

In this activity, students build a bird feeder to attract common bird species to their homes. 

Birds, like all animals, have specific needs for survival. In a city, birds may find water in puddles or in a pond. They may make their home out of a hole in a tree, or they may create a nest out of bits of hair or fabric they find in a yard.

Having a bird feeder to watch is a great way of bringing different bird species into your backyard. Creating a bird feeder might also help birds find food during times of year when finding food is difficult (such as winter).

Bird Safety Tip:
To help prevent injury or risk of collision, place birdfeeders and/or birdbaths less than a half metre (< 1.5’) or closer from your windows. Over this short distance, birds cannot build up enough momentum to injure themselves if they hit a window. The closer to your window, the better it is for the birds and your viewing.

Note: To prevent the spread of disease in birds like salmonellosis, refillable feeders should be thoroughly cleaned between refills.

Objectives

  • Identify requirements for bird survival.

  • Identify common bird species (once built).

Materials

  • Per Student:
    pine cones
    yarn/string (40 cm) or pipe cleaner

  • Per Group:
    vegetable shortening* (Crisco is a common brand) * peanut butter can be used if allergies are not an issue.
    trays
    tablecloth
    clean up cloths
    plastic bags for transporting feeders
    birdseed (check Birding in BC for local tips, or Canadian Wildlife Federation)

Key Questions

  • Can you identify the birds that feed from the birdfeeder?
  • Does the weather affect the bird feeder visits?
  • Do you notice a pattern to the time of day the birds visit?

What To Do

Preparation: Trays with shortening and trays of birdseed should be prepared in advance.

  1. Tie string/pipecleaner onto pinecone.
  2. Roll pinecone in shortening* (hint: the more shortening on the pinecone, the more seeds will stick to it, so try to encourage students to coat their entire pinecone in shortening).
  3. Roll pinecone in seeds.
  4. Place pinecone feeders in a small plastic bag for transporting home.
  5. Observe what birds and other creatures visit your feeder.

NOTE: * peanut butter can be used if allergies are not an issue.

Extensions

  • Keep a journal of animal sightings.
  • In the spring, help birds find nesting material. Put out short pieces of pet or human hair, string and yarn in an onion bag or in a small basket. Keep the pieces shorter than 5 cm so birds don’t get tangled.
  • Try and put bird feeders in different locations and compare animal sightings.
  • Research your favourite bird sighting and present it to your class.
  • Create a tally/bar graph of the different creatures you observe.
  • Research and create a bird feeder that attracts different types of birds.

Other Resources

BirdSafe Canada |Homes Safe for Birds

Birding in BC | Seed and Suet tips

Canadian Wildlife Federation | Best Practices on Bird Feeding

Cornell Lab of Ornithology | Free Merlin Bird ID App