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The Birds in Your Back Yard

red-cardinalLook up in the sky! Did you see that flash of red as the cardinal flew by? Bird watching is an amazing way for children to experience nature up close and we are in the midst of the best time for birding right now. With the arrival of warmer weather, many song birds are following their food sources by migrating north. You can attract these beautiful birds to your yard by providing them with food, shelter, and water. Creating your own birdfeeder is a simple and fun project to enjoy with your family that will make your yard attractive for migrating birds.

Creating and Placing Your Birdfeedersfemale-cardinal

· Pine cone feeders are an easy craft to make with your kids. First, find some pine cones outside and tie a string around the top so that you can hang it when you are done. Then cover the pine cone with peanut butter or shortening. Put some bird seed onto a plate and roll the pine cone in the seed. Now your feeder is ready to be hung outside as a tasty treat for the birds!

· You can also use recycled materials, such as plastic juice containers or cardboard milk cartons, to make a feeder. Cut out two rectangles about 3×2 inches on opposite sides of the carton. Then create a small hole below each rectangle and place a dowel rod through the holes, securing it with craft glue. This will provide the birds with a place to perch while they eat. To hang it, cut two small holes on opposite sides at the top of the bottle, and then string some rope through the holes. Decorate it with non-toxic paint and items that will not harm the birds. Don’t forget to puncture holes in the bottom of the container for drainage!

· Pick an area of your yard that offers some nearby cover (trees, bushes, etc.) and a water source like a bird bath or a pond. Either put the bird feeder within three feet of a window (birds cannot gain enough speed to hurt themselves from this distance) or far away from it so that the birds do not fly into the windows.

· Add a water source near the feeder and fill it with 1-2 inches of water. Make sure to clean out the water source weekly. Place it on a platform to keep the birds safe from animals like cats.

· Put food into your bird feeder, but keep in mind that different foods attract different birds. You can buy a bag of mixed seed to attract a variety of birds. Have your children experiment with different seeds at different feeders to see what birds show up!

Now that there are birds visiting your yard, it’s time to enjoy watching them! Children can keep a nature journal of what birds they see either by writing their names down or by drawing pictures. Encourage your children to take responsibility by taking care of the feeders and water sources in the wildlife area so that they feel connected to the animals that show up thanks to their efforts. For more information on birds that might be migrating through your area, such as flycatchers, vireos, and thrushes, check out Cornell University’s bird guide at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search.

Roger Williams Park Zoo’s award winning education department shares ideas every month to help you engage your kids in the wonders of nature all around us. Roger Williams Park Zoo – 1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, RI

Photos Credit: From the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife digital library.

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