What better way to engage a child’s interest in nature than through the creation of a pine cone bird feeder? Watching the garden birds on something that you’ve made yourself is enjoyable no matter how old you are, and this activity is simple enough that even small children will find it easy. And a pine cone bird feeder is a delicious treat for your garden birds.
This fun activity actually comes in two parts. Before you can make your feeder, you first need to go out and find a pine cone. This alone can be a great opportunity to get the little ones involved in an exploration of the natural world. All you need to do to inspire their natural curiosity is ask a few simple questions. What can you see? What can you find? What sort of tree do we need to look for in order to find a pine cone?
Preferably your pine cone needs to be fair sized, and with its scales open. If you find one that has its scales closed, don’t worry. All you have to do is put it somewhere warm for a while. It won’t be long before it opens up.
Once you’ve found your pine cone – or maybe even a selection of them – and cleaned off any dirt or broken scales, you can then turn it into a tasty treat for your garden birds.
You will need:
- pine cone – preferably with its scales open
- peanut butter (or lard, suet or sunflower oil if you have peanut allergies)
- pieces of fruit (this can be dried fruit such as raisins or chopped apricots, or fresh fruit, such as small bits of apple)
- blunt knife or spoon
Tie a length of string around the pine cone, about three layers of scales down. Loop it over so the feeder can hang from a branch. If you have more more than one pine cone, you could choose to tie one to each end of the string, creating a double feeder.
Use a blunt knife or spoon to coat the pine cone in peanut butter, making sure to get it between all of the scales. If you don’t mind getting your hands messy, you could even use your fingers for this part!
Pour some bird seed onto the plate. Role the pine cone around in the seed until it is covered, pressing the seeds into the peanut butter.
Add the pieces of fruit. Press them into the peanut butter, lodging them in between the open scales.
Hang your bird feeder in a tree and wait for the birds to visit. When they do so is another perfect opportunity to further engage the kids in nature by asking questions such asthem what types of bird they can see, what they look like, and where they go to after they fly away.
For a variation on the above recipe, here’s a video from Wildlife Watch UK that shows a slightly different version of a pine cone feeder. This one is made out of lard, bird seed, breadcrumbs and dried fruit.