Feed the Birds!

Making a Wild Bird Feeder is a Fun Way to Care For Our Feathered Friends

by Robin DeRosa Lundgren

Birds of a feather may flock together, but all flocks don’t necessarily fly south for the winter. During the winter months, when there aren’t many insects or seeds available naturally, wild birds have the hardest time finding food. In 1994, February was made National Bird-Feeding Month, to encourage people to help those feathered friends who are still outside braving the elements.

Many birds in Northern Virginia remain here year round, according to John Callow, assistant manager of Riverbend Park in Great Falls. “And some migrate here in the winter from more mountainous areas, so there is a big population of birds here in the winter,” Callow says.

Setting up a bird feeder in the yard is a great way for kids to help the wild birds make it through the winter months. A child can help fill a store bought feeder or have fun making their own feeders out of pinecones, bagels or milk cartons. Once the feeders are in place, kids can record the birds that visit their feeder, identifying them with a field guide from the library or bookstore. This also offers them a chance to see and enjoy the variety of birds that remain throughout the winter.

To take bird watching a step further, kids and their parents can participate in Project FeederWatch, operated by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. Kids will have fun identifying and counting the highest numbers of each species that they see at their feeders anytime from November through April. For a $15 annual fee you receive a research kit which includes a bird identification poster, resource guide and data forms. To sign up for this winter season, visit www.birds.cornell.edu  by February 28.

Keep in mind, if you and your family decide to start feeding birds this winter, “it’s almost like an obligation,” says Callow. The birds will come to rely on you since other food sources are scarce at this time of year, “so if you’re going to do it, you should plan to do it throughout the winter months.”

Bagel Bird Feeder

This simple, completely edible bird feeder is fun to make for kids of all ages. As the birds eat them up, the kids can easily make more!

Here’s What You Need

1 day old bagel or pinecone

Lard or peanut butter


Plastic zipper bag

String or ribbon


1. Using a butter knife or spoon, have your child spread lard or peanut butter on the bagel

2. Pour some birdseed into a plastic zipper bag. Have your child put the bagel in the bag and shake it to coat it with the seeds.

3. Let your child tie string or a ribbon through the hole in the bagel. Then you can hang from a tree branch at least 5 feet high and visible from inside your home for bird watching.

This activity helps develop cognition, the mental process of knowing, by developing your child’s awareness, perception and reasoning. Following multi-step directions and learning new concepts about birds engage young cognitive skills. The activity also develops fine motor skills, the use of small muscle movements in the hands that occur in coordination with the eyes. Fine motors skills in this project are engaged when holding the bread/bagel in one hand and using a knife to spread the lard or peanut butter on with the other hand, pouring birdseed into a plastic zipper bag, sealing the bag, stringing ribbon through a hole in the bagel and picking up the small pieces of birdseed. Social emotional development involves a child’s feelings of self worth, confidence and pride as well as their ability to get along with others in a group setting. Children can practice sharing craft materials and tools with siblings and friends and can feel empowered by their ability to create something that contributes to the well being of nature.

This monthly family activity series, “Hands-on Kids!” is brought to you by a partnership between the Children’s Museum of Northern Virginia (CMNOVA) and FAMILIES Magazine. For more activities you can do with your children to spark their love of learning, visit the CMNOVA web site, www.cmnova.org . On their website you will also find information about the Children’s Museum of Northern Virginia and how you can become involved. CMNOVA is committed to building a place where our children can freely explore and develop a lifelong love of learning. Robin DeRosa Lundgren, Vice President of Aquarian Entertainment and Production Services, is a writer, creator of a kid’s cooking show and volunteer with CMNOVA.


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