If You Build It, They Will Come

When we lived in California we took a day trip to the little mountain town of Julian for the Julian Apple Days Festival. We drank hard apple cider, ate apple pie, and bought a hummingbird feeder. In The Birdwatcher, a local bird haven that sold all things bird related, we strolled onto their back porch lined with hummingbird feeders, swarmed by hundreds of hummingbirds and, just like they planned it, bought a hummingbird feeder. Recipe in hand, we (Lee) mixed up the homemade hummingbird nectar and opened up our own hummingbird restaurant. Soon we had a steady flow of birds and spent a lot of time watching them eat, and swoop, and dive at each other. I know I left this bird story out of the last post (yes, another post about birds!) but since our next challenge is to Make a Bird Feeder I knew I had to keep a couple in my pocket.

We left our hummingbird feeder for the next people who would live in our house, and bought a new one in Northern VA. The guy at the wild bird store hesitantly sold me a hummingbird feeder as he let me know there weren’t many hummingbirds in northern VA. I bought it anyway. We brewed our nectar, hung up our feeder, and waited. I don’t love getting an “I told you so” but this guy did tell me. I also didn’t run out and buy another kind of bird feeder. I didn’t set out to buy the one I did. Tooling around the garden area in Lowe’s one morning, looking for just the right plant pot, I tuned into the sound of birds. A lot of birds. I turned the corner and startled all of the birds who were enjoying a ripped bag of bird seed. Birds, I thought. Yes, birds. Cheap feeder, bag of bird seed, plant pot (maybe two!) and out the door. We were back in the bird business.

We live in a townhouse with a small, bricked patio, that we’ve partially covered with astroturf. There is a small deck on the floor above. I hung the bird feeder from the deck, using the hanger purchased for the hummingbird feeder. It didn’t take long. Our brown birds were loving our feeder. But, I was new to the bird feeding game, actually new to the bird seed game. In my excitement to feed the birds, I didn’t think about that fact that the patio below the deck would become the landing place for all of the shells. We were like one of those restaurants that provides peanuts and says, sure just throw the shells on the ground, we’ll take care of that mess. Except, we (Lee) didn’t want to take care of that mess.

Small, brown, probably female, bird thinking this establishment’s sanitation score is going to drop soon if something isn’t done about this mess.

I was hooked on birds by then and didn’t want to just pull up ropes with the feeder. So, I visited a different bird store and discovered what all city bird feeder owners know and love, the Patio Mix, no shells!

This is not the store that sold me the hummingbird feeder. Luckily this one is closer to our house.
The squirrels love the shelled roasted peanuts. They pick them out first.

February is National Bird Feeding Month in recognition that it is one of the most difficult months in the US for wild birds. Making bird feeders is a fun kid activity, we made them them for storytime enrichment occasionally.

Storytime bird feeders: Cheerios and pipe cleaners. I’m betting the birds were not excited.

I reached out to my niece, Alexis, to see if her daughters, Nico and Elin, would be interested in making bird feeders with me. Live from their kitchen in Omaha, NE we made two types of bird feeders, following recipes for Easy and Eco-Friendly Bird Feeders.

Just add bird seed.

We started with the classic Pine Cone Feeder. I was unaware that pine cones are not found everywhere. I just assumed I’d walk down to the park, and although I never remember seeing them before, there would be pine cones when I needed them. There were not. (I also did not realize that pine cone was two words.) So, I made tube bird feeders out of paper towel and toilet paper rolls instead of pine cones. Elin jumped in and made a toilet paper roll one, too, even though they had plenty of pine cones. I appreciated the solidarity.

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

  • Pine cones—whatever size and shape you can find
  • String
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 T shortening or butter
  • 2-3 cups birdseed
  1. Tie 6-8 inches of string to the tip of each pine cone.
  2. Melt your peanut butter and butter together until runny.
  3. Dip your pine cones in the mixture until they are completely covered.
  4. Roll the pine cones thoroughly in birdseed.
  5. Hang in nearby trees and bushes.

This one was very easy. We weren’t initially sure why we needed the shortening but it did make it much easier to dip, according to Alexis, and to spread, according to me, than using just straight peanut butter. The instructions did offer a “pro tip” that you could microwave closed-up pine cones to open them up, but Alexis did not have any luck with that.

Wreath bird feeder

  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 T unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 T corn syrup
  • 4 cups bird seed
  1. Stir together the hot water and gelatin until dissolved.
  2. Add the flour and corn syrup and mix together into a sticky paste, then add the birdseed.
  3. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, mix well and then press into a well-greased bundt or tube pan.
  4. Allow the feeder to dry for a least 24 hours. After a day, flip out of the tube pan to let it finish hardening.
  5. Tie a scrap of burlap or ribbon around it and hang it out for the birds!

This one was much messier, which would have seemed inconceivable while I was making the first one, but it’s true. To get it all mixed up, I ended up using my hands to mix it, and then press it into the bundt pan. Twenty-four hours later, my wreath came right out of the pan.

Above: My wreath in the pan. Time to dry. Below: Nico and Elin’s wreath in NE.

We had a great time spending a cold afternoon whipping up snacks for our neighborhood birds. I think I’ll be making more. Goodness knows I have the ingredients! You may all be getting bird feeder wreaths for Christmas next December. Whether you have kids handy or not, please consider making a bird feeder in February. Google home made bird feeders or just make one of the ones we made. I’d love to hear if you have bird feeders, and especially if you make one. If nothing else, buy a bag of bird seed and toss some out for the birds. The birds will appreciate it. I can’t guarantee that it’ll keep them from pooping on your car this summer, but it’s worth a shot.

Before you go…we have a couple of feeders. The cheap bird feeder I bought at Lowe’s broke when it got knocked over in the wind one day. Lee bought me a nicer one for Christmas and I love it. I also got a window feeder for Christmas (thank you, Rachel!) that I call the Food Truck. The birds have finally discovered it. I also have a food tray, which the squirrels and the doves love. If I keep the food tray filled the squirrels don’t bother the hanging feeder or the food truck. When it’s empty, the doves stare at me through the window like I owe them money. Thanks for reading! Next week: Read an Entire Book Series Part 1

Challenge Partners

Nico
  • Age 11
  • Lives in Omaha, NE
  • Enjoys drawing
  • Would like to be a professional mermaid/free diver/scuba diver when she grows up
Elin
  • Age 7
  • Lives in Omaha, NE
  • Enjoys American Girl, Minecraft, and Roblox
  • Would like to be a waiter or maybe doctor when she grows up

2 thoughts on “If You Build It, They Will Come

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