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Pine Cone Bird Feeders

As the weather gets colder where they live, and it gets more challenging to find food, birds fly amazingly long distances to places where it’s warmer and it’s easier for them to feed themselves and their babiesan amazing example of persistence! In this activity, kids create a bird feeder using a pine cone, seeds, and sun butter (nut-free sunflower seed butter), giving migrating birds a boost of energy as they embark on their long journey. 

The Guide

Get to know the birds in your outdoor space:

Head outside with kids and look and listen for birds. (Optional: Use cardboard tubes to make DIY binoculars!) The ideal time is early in the morning, but there are many times of day to try. Just try to avoid noon when birds tend to be the least active. Use an app like the Merlin bird identifying app created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to find out what kinds of birds you are seeing and hearing in your yard or local green space. Or, visit the Audubon Society site to learn more about birds and find birds in your area.

Promote empathy for bird friends:

Wonder together how the birds around your home are doing. What do they need and want? Many birds travel long distances as they migrate with the changing of the seasons. These travelers burn tremendous amounts of energy, and they can really benefit when we put out safe sources of nutrition to support them on their way. How we could leave some bird seed for the birds?

Explore seeds and invite play:

Pour bird seed in a large bowl or bin and invite kids to explore it. Feel it. Bury things in it. Scoop it and let it fall through your fingers.

Wonder how we could leave some bird seed for the birds. If you have lots of squirrels, wonder how you could hang it so that winged friends could reach it, but squirrels couldn’t take it all. Share ideas.

Introduce the pine cones:

Show kids the pine cones. Could these help? Tie some yarn or string to the top of a pine cone so it hangs down. Then, try to add seeds. Harumph, they all fall out! 

Introduce the sticking power of sun butter:

Wonder what would happen if you used sun butter. Experiment with adding sun butter to the pine cone, then rolling it in seeds. Repeat the process to make a bunch of feeders. 

Hang your feeders:

Go for a hike and let your child/kids decide where to hang the feeders. Try to hang one in a spot you can easily observe from inside, if you can. As you play, wonder aloud about what you think birds will do with the feeders and what kind of birds might come. Observe your feeder over time and notice how it changes from day to day or week to week.
Want to make another type of feeder to help feathered friends? Try this activity to turn an orange into a bird feeder!

Why is this activity great for kids?

Considering the needs of other creatures and doing something to meet those needs develops cognitive and compassionate empathy. The construction of the orange feeder requires patience and persistence and taking time to scoop seeds and smell/taste/feel/see oranges as they are transformed into bird feeders is a marvelous workout for the senses. Family projects designed around helping others are wonderful ways to reinforce both family and community values. Hurrah!
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