Friday, February 17, 2006

Making a Pine Cone Birdfeeder

Winter is nearly over and even though it's been a mild winter this year, food is always harder to come by for the birds during this season. Bird feeding is a great winter activity and can help kids get a closer view of these amazing creatures.

Bird feeders can be expensive, however. Luckily, there is no shortage of pine cones in nature and in most homes and centers, peanut butter isn't too hard to find, either. Add a few more things and some little hands to put it all together and you've got yourself a birdfeeder.

Here's a step-by-step guide:

First, gather your ingredients.

  • pine cones (one for each child)

  • peanut butter (figure one 16-ounce jar for about 12 pine cones)

  • corn meal (about 1/2 cup per jar of peanut butter used. This is optional, but it adds nutritional value and keeps the peanut butter from being too sticky or runny)

  • string, ribbon or yarn (about 2 feet per pine cone)

  • something to spread the peanut butter with

  • waxed paper

Gather the ingredients to make your pine cone bird feeder

Next, tie string to the pine cone. Older children can do this alone, but if you're doing this with toddlers, do it ahead of time. It's a lot harder to do once you've got peanut butter and bird seed everywhere. :)

Tie string around your pine cones first

Place corn meal (optional) and peanut butter in a bowl and mix. If you're doing this with younger children, giving everyone a turn at mixing is a good way to keep everyone's attention and involvement.

Put cornmeal and peanut butter in a bowl for mixing

The mix should look thicker and have lost its oily shine
. This will make the peanut butter easier to work with and the meal adds nutritional value for the birds.

When mixed together, it should look thick like this

Place the birdseed in a container. Use a dish that has a bit of a lip or is deep so that spills will be prevented. Any birdseed will do, really. It's not necessary to use a type with smaller pieces. Cardinals and other colorful birds will be attracted to it if it has sunflower seeds.

Put the birdseed in a container for rolling.  Make sure it's a little deep to prevent spills

Spread peanut butter on the pine cones. If using spoons, plastic spoons will probably break, so use metal spoons or something sturdy. Make sure to use the utensil to push the peanut butter deep into the crevices.

Spread peanut butter in the crevices of the pine cone with popsicle sticks or a spoon

Roll the pine cones in the birdseed.

Roll the peanut butter coated pine cones in bird seed

Lay the finished feeders on waxed paper until you are ready to hang them. This gives the added benefit of keeping hands clean. When you're ready to hang them, you can just wrap each one in the paper for carrying. They can also be wrapped up to send home and they won't stick too much when unwrapped.

Lay the finished pine cone bird feeders on waxed paper to prevent sticking and mess

Hang the bird feeder. Find a strategic location. Try to choose an area where you have seen birds "hanging out" before. Hang it near existing feeders or along a fence.

Hang your pine cone birdfeeder in a strategic location where birds will find it

If you have many children doing this project and not many branches, you can put the feeders on one string and hang them in a row between two trees or bushes or along a fence.

Hang the bird feeders on one string in a long row if you have many children, if desired

Sit back and wait for the birds. It doesn't take long. I hung this feeder and it took about five minutes for Mr. Cardinal here to land on a nearby branch.

Soon, birds will find the feeder.  It took this cardinal about 5 minutes

I think he's starting to figure out that some food is nearby...

It looks like the cardinal has found the feeder, he knows something is there

Ah ha. There he's found it.

Ah, the cardinal has figured out where the feeder is for sure

And a few minutes later, a European Starling finds the feeder, as well.

A European Starling has found the feeder, too


marcy said...

No matter how many times I see or hear of this project I love it. The pics were great as reference for making craft.

s.collins said...

i love this idea but do you have an alternative to peanut butter as we have a child with a peanut allery in our setting

W said...

S. Collins,

Try sunflower seed butter. They sell it at Trader Joes. Probably not as cheap as PB, but will by okay for the allergies. My daughter is peanut allergic too and this is our PB alternative!

Linda said...

Excellent tip for making a birdfeeder. I will share this with my gardening clubs and other children!