“How beautiful your feathers be!”
The Redbird sang to the Tulip-tree
New-garbed in autumn gold.
“Alas!” the bending branches sighed,
“They cannot like your leaves abide
To keep us from the cold!”
-John. B Tabb
It’s November! It’s really autumn, now, and it could even be rather wintry where you are. Here in North Carolina, we won’t get anything that seems like winter until December, at least, and usually more like January. Now is a really good time to start feeding the birds. The seeds are mostly gone from the fields, and they will be looking for food. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it, either. This is a great way to begin, or continue, your nature study of birds. I love to watch them over the winter and see if I can identify them in their winter colors. Here’s what you need:
- Open pine cones: the bigger, the better (pine cones close up when they get wet, just so you know)
- Peanut butter (you can use lard if allergies are a concern)
- Corn meal or oatmeal
- Bird seed
- Yarn or string
This is so simple, and kids love to make them! Here’s what you do:
- Cut a piece of yarn or string approximately 12″ long, knot the ends together, and work it between the scales, around the wide end of the pine cone.
- Mix 1/2 C peanut butter or lard with 1/2 C oatmeal or corn meal. Press it onto the pine cone. We found it worked best to do it with our fingers, but you can use a spoon, too.
- Put some bird seed in a pan or bowl, and roll the sticky pine cone in it. If it has trouble sticking, you can press it on with your fingers or a spoon.
- Hang it up in a tree or bush and wait for your feathered friends to appear!
My children and I have had great success with these little home-made feeders. The birds seem to like them even better than the feeders I have out all the time. Maybe it’s the peanut butter? My notes: I prefer corn meal, if I have it, to oatmeal, but it’s probably not worth a special trip to the store. Also, we tried using a rubber spatula and found it was too soft to work well pressing the peanut butter mixture, and then the seed, onto the pine cone.
While you’re watching the birds, see what you notice about them. What kinds of birds do you see? Do they visit the feeder individually or in groups? Are there any “bullies” who chase other birds away? Do some birds prefer to eat on the ground or at the feeder? Consider keeping a list of the birds you see and see if different ones visit you during the winter and in the spring/summer. Here is a free printable page for your bird list! If you’re new to bird watching, here are some resources I recommend for getting started:
- Website: The Audubon Online Guide to North American Birds
- Website: What Bird?
- Website: All About Birds Guide from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- The Backyard Bird Lover’s Field Guide: Secrets to Attracting, Identifying, and Enjoying Birds of Your Region – if you’re interested in a book on how to go about attracting birds to your yard
- Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Birds: Eastern Region (Stokes Field Guide Series) (Here is the Western version)
- Eastern Backyard Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Urban Species (Pocket Naturalist Guide Series) (Here is the Western version)
I would love to hear what kinds of birds you see in your yard! If you try the pine cone feeders, what kinds of birds do you see eating from them?
Nature is all around us and it’s part of science! Follow our science Pinterest board below to keep your kids busy with science activities, experiments and more this year!
Follow Misty Leask’s board Homeschool: Science on Pinterest.