Archive for March, 2011

Back in December, the kids and I made bird feeders.  It was very easy, very fast, and lots of fun! 

Here’s how we did it.

You will need:

2-liter soda bottles (1 per feeder)

dowels or sticks (I think our dowels were 3/8 inch size)

drill and drill bits

something to cut dowels or sticks with

a ruler to measure length of sticks/dowels

bird seed


wire strong enough for hanging a full bottle

a tree, post, or peg to hang the feeder from


1.  Wash the soda bottle thoroughly and dry well.

2.  Decide which way the bottle will hang—right-side-up or upside-down.  (We did ours upside-down, but the next ones will be right-side-up.)  Drill 4 holes a couple of inches from the bottom.  Put two of them across from each other, and the other two on the opposite sides, a little above or below the first holes.  This is to make a cross-shaped set with two dowels poking out on 4 sides of the bottle.  (This makes 4 perches for birds, but if you just want 2 perches, drill 2 holes and just use one dowel.)


3.  Measure and cut two 8 or 9-inch pieces of dowel and push them through the holes.  They should stick out 2-3 inches from the bottle.  If you make them too long, bigger birds like European Starlings (which are real pests for many people) will be able to perch and eat all your seeds in a day or less). 

4.  Drill 4 more holes 1-2 inches above each dowel hole.  This is where the birds will stick their beaks in to get seeds.  (We actually did 2 sets of feeder holes; one for smaller birds and one for taller birds.)

5.  Drill two smaller holes near the top of the bottle, across from each other.  These will hold your wire.

6.  Cut a long piece of wire and thread it through the small holes, bringing the ends up so it looks like a “U” shape. 

7.  Drill a small hole or two in the lid (or bottom of the bottle if making a right-side-up feeder).  This hole will help drain the moisture that collects inside the bottle.  (We didn’t do this for our first feeders and are regretting it, so that’s why our next ones will be right-side-up…drilling small holes in the bottom will be easier and drain better than drilling holes in the lid.)

8.  Unscrew the lid and fill with birdseed using the funnel.  Do this in an area that’s easy to clean (or even outside…ground-feeding birds like sparrows and quail will thank you for the spilled seed).  Some of the seeds will spill out the holes, but not much.  Screw the lid back on.


9.  Take the feeder outside and hang from a branch or post.  (I’ve heard there are wall-mount things you can buy to mount it from your house, as well.)  You can either make a loop of wire and hang it on a nicely slanted branch, or if you only have straight branches, put the wire around a branch and twist the ends together several times.  Make sure the wire ends are tucked under the branch where bird feet won’t catch on them.



10.  Wait patiently.  It may take up to 2 weeks before the birds find out there’s a new restaurant in the neighborhood.  You might want to scatter some seeds on the ground around the feeder, and even small bits of bread crumbled up.  We waited one week before we got our first customer—a beautiful male house finch—and then were mobbed a few days later (on Christmas Day, no less!) with Black-Capped Chickadees, House Sparrows (ugh), Dark-Eyed Juncos (Oregon variety), and California Quail

Since then we’ve also been visited by lots of male and female House Finches, 2 Mountain Chickadees, a Northern Flicker, a pair of Eurasian Collared-Doves, various Mourning Doves, several Black-Billed Magpies, lots of European Starlings (though they can’t perch on the feeders), and one Spotted Towhee.

You may want to consider making some pine-cone feeders while you wait.  These are quite effective–the birds love them!  They’re very easy:

1.  Find some nice bristly pinecones

2.  Tie a sturdy string or thread around them

3.  Cover them in peanut butter

4.  Sprinkle bird seed all over the peanut butter.  Some people mix cornmeal into the peanut butter, too, so the birds can digest it better

5.  Hang from a branch and watch the birds enjoy their tasty treat.  (Warning: Starlings LOVE these things, so cross your fingers that they don’t discover it or the peanut butter will be gone in an hour.)  Chickadees adore this treat, and they’re so curious and friendly that they may let you eventually stand a few feet away and snap some pictures like these:


Black-Capped Chickadee


Mountain Chickadee…notice the white stripe above his eyes


Here you can see the stripe isn’t a complete circle


Snatching some peanut butter.  We named this guy “Mountain Dude.”


Chickadees are so much fun to watch…they’re quite the acrobats. The purple
ribbons are for my friend, missing mother Susan Cox Powell. 


My favorite picture: a beak full of peanut butter, while “Ginny,” a curious female house finch, watches from a few branches above

We look forward every day to seeing old favorites as well as new birds at our feeders.  It’s also a terrific nature project for the kids…they can observe and draw the birds from two feet away inside the house and learn the differences in genders, types of birds, and how they act and eat. 


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