During this pandemic, there have been very few opportunities to entertain. Or have there been? Hovering outside of our windows are dozens of guests just waiting for a good meal.
Teach your child about the needs of wild birds and optimize your backyard birdwatching experience by attracting resident species and migrating birds with a backyard buffet of nutritional food for birds. Whether you make your own feeder (like the simple and cheap pinecone feeder below) or buy one ready-made, fall is the perfect time for a feast!
Fall migration, when birds head off to their wintering grounds, is an exhausting feat. It requires tons of calories for the energy necessary to fly hundreds or thousands of miles. Bird feeders can help wild birds build up body fat as they are preparing for their long journey south. They can also be a refueling stop for passing migrants as well as help resident birds build up fat reserves for their journey or to survive falling temperatures. Because of the physical demands of migration, it’s important to give migrating birds the best nutrition possible. The best seeds for fall feeding are those that have a lot of protein and fat packed inside of each bite such as sunflower seed, peanut hearts and safflower seed.
Some people are hesitant to feed in the fall because they believe that if birds have a steady source of food available in autumn, they won't migrate, and then, when those feeders are empty, the birds will starve. But experts say that this is not true. Daylight levels, climate, and instinct also play important roles in seasonal migration. A reliable food source is only a minor factor.
So go ahead and feed fall birds, but do it responsibly.
- Check feeders for damage. Check on the feeders after heavy summer use and repair them so they are safe for autumn birds.
- Choose fall plants that offer evergreen cover. Select ones that have lasting berries, nuts, or fruits for fall and winter food.
- Keep birdbaths filled with fresh, clean water. Add a heater to the bath in late fall to guard against early freezes.
- Keep feeders clean and filled. Do this even in poor autumn weather to prevent spreading diseases among migratory flocks.
- Allow leaf litter to build up under trees. This can attract birds with shelter, insects, fallen seeds, and other foods.
- Squirrel-proof bird feeders. Use different tactics to prevent autumn foraging squirrels from depleting birds' food supplies.
- Protect the birds. Protect these exhausted backyard migrants from predators such as cats and hawks.
Tips from The Spruce.
Make it! Easy Pinecone Feeder
Making your own pine cone bird feeder with your child is an easy, inexpensive project perfect even for young birders to make, and a great way to add an instant feeding station to your yard.
All you need are a few items:
Peanut Butter. Use crunchy or smooth. As a substitute, you can use suet, lard, or vegetable shortening. You can also use other nut butters, such as almond or hazelnut, but avoid sugar-free varieties that don't offer birds good energy.
String or twine
Something to spread the peanut butter with, like a popsicle stick or butter knife.
Head out with your kids and gather together your pine cones, which can be collected below pine trees in the fall. Cones that have fallen naturally are the best choice because they will be more open and familiar to birds. Be on the lookout for larger, broader cones that are fairly open. They will hold more food for the birds and are easier for birds to cling to. Do not use scented pine cones or any decorative cones that have been painted or glittered, as those chemicals can be harmful to birds.
Cut the string or twine into a 10-inch piece and attach it to the top of the cone. Avoid fishing line, dental floss, or other very thin threads that can create dangerous tangle hazards for birds. It’s a good idea to leave the top of the string open so you can tie it to a branch for hanging.
Smear the pinecone with peanut butter using the spreader. Coat the cone with a layer of peanut butter, as thick or thin as desired. Press some peanut butter between rows of scales, filling in larger gaps.
Sprinkle or roll the cone in birdseed, pressing lightly to stick the seed to the cone. You can also work the seed in between the rows of scales. Add larger seeds, nut pieces, or fruit pieces if desired, pressing them firmly into the peanut butter so they are secure.
Hang them up! Try to find a cool, shaded area or else your feeder may grow soft or melt. Hang the pine cone bird feeder from a branch or hook, in trees or bushes for birds to find it easily or even string several together for a longer feeder to feed more birds. Enjoy your bird buffet guests!