I'll be honest and admit that I thought the arrival of colder days in metro Detroit meant the immediate departure of the birds that visit our house each morning looking for their regular helping of breakfast. However, after chatting with Rosann Kovalcik, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited of Grosse Pointe Woods, I'm excited to know that some birds do call our area home in the cooler months and, with the help of a few DIY ideas that kids can help out with, we can make sure they have a wonderful winter season.
Kovalcik is an all-around bird lover with great ideas to make sure birds have a comfortable home once the temperatures dip. One of her favorite projects is to recycle pumpkins – whether from last week's Halloween celebrations or plain pumpkins used to create a harvest theme outside your home – into bird feeders.
Or, if your pumpkins have already been added to the compost pile, make a mini bird feeder using a pie pumpkin. (One will make two small bird feeders.) They're easier than you think to make and the birds will be very happy to put them to use!
Pie pumpkin bird feeder
- Pie pumpkin
- Serrated knife
- Spoon or scoop
- Small dowel rods
- Rope, twine or kitchen string
- Key ring
- With a serrated knife, cut the pie pumpkin in half. Scoop out the pumpkin seeds so each half is as smooth and clean as possible.
- Next, mark your drill points on the outside of the pumpkin. Divide the pumpkin into four quadrants and make your mark. With a small screwdriver and bit sized to the width of the dowel rods, drill through the pumpkin. Insert the dowel rods so that they cross each other in the center of pumpkin, leaving a little bit sticking out from the pumpkin.
- Cut four lengths of twine to the height you'd like the feeder to hang. Tie a piece onto each rod end that's on the outside of the pumpkin. Join the strings together and tie around a key ring to create a hook for the feeder. Fill with seed and you're ready to go! Since this bird feeder doesn't have a top, consider using safflower seeds inside. Squirrels don't like this seed and will shy away from your new bird feeder's offering.
The pumpkin bird feeders don't last forever, but they're a great way to use up pumpkins and provide a natural look to your collection of bird feeders. You can also try gourds. Just make sure the birds have enough room to access the seed.
Other fall bird ideas
How else can your children help birds enjoy the autumn environment outside? Kovalcik suggest having them create a small mulch pile in one corner of your backyard. According to her, the world living inside a mulch pile is fascinating! Michigan birds visit mulch piles looking for necessary bugs in the leaf litter.
You can also have your family get involved outside by creating a welcoming resting area for birds this fall. Make sure the feeders are full and, if your children really enjoy bird watching, invest in a heated water source. Birds need lots of clean water, too!
While you might be tempted to have your children help with garden cleanup as part of their at-home chores, Kovalcik says leave those beds alone until spring. The leftover seeds and bugs give birds a good food source as winter approaches. And as we know with last winter, our Michigan birds can use all the extra help they can get in the colder months.