As National Birdfeeding Month, February provides a great opportunity to introduce your family to watching birds and appreciating the great outdoors in general.
Whether you live in the city or the country, you and your kids can enjoy birding together . Every step of the way, it’s a fun experience for the whole family.
Make sure you have a welcoming environment before you bring birds to your yard:
• Put up several types of feeders. Seed feeders in different sizes will give birds plenty of chances to snack. Don’t forget platter feeders for variety and suet feeders where birds can stock up on high-energy food.
• Clean and fix existing feeders. Use a 10:1 water/bleach solution and a bottle brush to clean existing feeders. Make sure they are rinsed and dried completely before they are refilled.
• Provide a source of water (if you live in a climate where it won’t freeze). Birds need to bathe and drink too!
• Shelter birds from predators and bad weather. Dense shrubs will protect birds, and those with berries may encourage birds to feed there. Bird houses also offer a cozy rest stop. The type of shrubbery and/or bird houses that you put up will depend on the kind of birds in your area.
To attract birds, have your kids try these quick and easy feeders:
• Bagel feeder. Mix peanut butter and solid vegetable shortening in a 2:3 ratio. Spread the mixture on a stale bagel. Then roll the sticky bagel in birdseed. Use a piece of yarn to hang the bagel from a branch. The birds (or squirrels) will eat it up, soon leaving nothing but the string.
• Fruit plate feeder. Arrange some dried fruit, apple slices or raisins on a platter, and watch the birds flock to the buffet.
• Orange feeder. Cut an orange in half and hollow it out. When you’re done eating it, pass it along to the birds. Fill the peel with crumbs and seeds, then leave out.
• Pine cone feeder. Twist some wire around the top of a pine cone (make sure it’s natural, without paint or glitter on it) to make a hanger. Then mix one part margarine to one part peanut butter. Spread it in all the nooks and crannies of the pine cone. Roll the pine cone in birdseed; then stick the pine cone in the freezer for at least an hour so that the mixture sets on it. Hang up the feeder outside.
Don’t forget to prepare yourself and your kids for bird feeding and watching too.
These items will come in handy:
• Bird book. Whether it’s local or national in scope, make sure the guide contains lots of color illustrations that your kids can match to the birds they see at the feeder.
• Binoculars. Keep them near a window through which you can see your bird feeders, and you will be able to see your backyard visitors up close.
• Seasonal clothing. If you want to go out to watch the birds, dress in layers for maximum comfort and sit very still…