Both of my kids have always loved watching the birds fly around in our yard. “Bird,” “fly,” and “tweet tweet” were among my daughter’s first words, as she would point to the sparrows and robins landing on our fence this spring. Even if you live in an urban area, (or a tree-less subdivision like we do) wild birds are varied and abundant.
Recent studies have shown that spending time in nature can help alleviate ADHD symptoms in kids (which is not shocking news if you’ve ever spent time listening to the wind blow through the trees in a forest)… so it’s important to get our kids outside and involved with nature as often as we can! With this activity, kids of all ages can make their own simple bird feeders to attract more birds to your yard or patio for bird-watching.
LEARN SCIENCE VOCABULARY:
Species – The most specific level of scientific classification for living things. Birds in the same species can reproduce, but birds cannot reproduce with birds from different species. (For you city dwellers, scientists estimate that over 2,000 different species of birds live in urban areas worldwide! Peregrine Falcons, Cedar Waxwings, House Sparrows and European Starlings are a few examples of common urban bird species.)
Ornithologist – a scientist who studies birds and their behavior. (Regular people who like to watch wild birds are called “birders.” Birdwatching, or Birding, is a very popular activity across the globe. You and your kids can even join groups dedicated to finding and observing species of birds in your area!)
Ornithology – the science of studying birds and their behavior.
- Peanut butter or vegetable shortening
- Wild bird seed
- Pipe cleaners or string
- Pan or bowl
- Spoons or spatulas for spreading
- Optional: Binoculars
- Optional: Field Guide for identifying local birds
HOW TO MAKE IT:
- Tie the pipe cleaner or string to the pointy end of the pinecone.
- Spread the peanut butter or shortening all over the pinecone using a spoon or spatula (fingers also work for this step!). We made one of each to see what our local birds preferred best.
- Fill the bowl or pan with wild bird seed, and roll the sticky pinecones around to coat them with seeds.
- Hang your pinecone feeder on a tree, railing, post, etc. and watch the birds come to eat from your feeder!
- Get a local bird identification book (also called a “Field Guide”) from your library and see if you can figure out which SPECIES of bird are coming to your feeders. If you have a pair of binoculars (these are an important tool for any serious birder!), you can observe the birds up close while you watch from afar.
- Older kids with writing skills can take notes in a journal to keep track of the number and species (or descriptions/drawings) of birds that visit the feeder each day. Professional ORNITHOLOGISTS and amateur birders use similar field journals to document bird behavior.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT:
The science of ORNITHOLOGY has relied on observations from amateur birders around the world to collect information on bird songs, behavior, and migration patterns. This information is actually very important to our earth. Changes in bird migration patterns or decreases in bird populations can indicate problems in the environment. A great resource to learn more about birding and the birds you will encounter, check out the Audubon Society’s Birding Website.