Upcycled water bottles as birdfeeders are not new, so why am I sharing this?
Because this morning I sort of perfected them. My class of 2nd graders made a bunch and we had to be quick. So shall I:
PREP: Collect bottles that still have lids. Stick with the same brand and size and the lids will be sure to fit.
PREP: Cut a fingernail-size hole in opposite sides of the bottle about an inch from the bottom. I used an xacto knife. Then, make a Sharpie dot underneath each one. Make sure the dots are opposite each other.
I gave each kid:
a big thumtack
a pointy bamboo skewer (I broke them in two and gave them the pointy half)
a piece of florist’s wire about 5 inches long (or a bread-bag twist tie)
a bottle lid
a bottle to which I’ve already added dots and holes
a long piece of straight floral wire (optional, to make a big loop to attach to the lid loop. It depends on your tree, really.)
STUDENT WILL DO EVERYTHING ELSE, below:
•Take thumbtack and make two holes in the lid, WHILE THE LID SITS UPRIGHT ON THE TABLE. Poke thumbtack from above. You now have two little holes like piggy nostrils in a pig nose.
•Take one end of the wire and poke it straight down into one the holes. Take the other end of the wire and poke it down into the other hole. Take the free ends, which are now under the cap, and twist them shut. You’ve just made a loop.
•See the Sharpie-d dots? Take the thumbtack and poke a hole in the middle of each dot. Each is now a pilot hole.
•Take the pointy end of the bamboo skewer and poke it into this pilot hole and out through the other side. You’ve just made a bird perch.
•Take the bottle to the bag of black oil sunflower seed the teacher already put in a big box, and take free hand and scoop seeds into bottle. Enjoy this.
Do not be tempted to take bottle out of seed bag or you will be sweeping all day. Do not be tempted to use a funnel and go all Montessori unless you have the time and patience for such things. The kids LOVE to touch the seeds and to use their own hands as funnels. They would have played contentedly in the bag for the whole class. (I have to remember this next time and pour the seed in a big bin for tactile fun.)
We did this today for another fabulous reason: to prepare the school courtyard for the Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s an annual Citizen Science Project wherein people ID and count birds for as little as 15 minutes over the course of a 3 day weekend, and then report the data online. See my quickie family article at GeekDad for an intro.
ETC: My students were not comfortable with the pointy bamboo once the skewer had become a perch, so I let them use my wire-cutters to cut off the business end. They loved working a new tool. But I warn you, the cut ends do tend to fling themselves mid-snip. Next time, we’ll do the snipping at an individual station.
GOOD QUESTIONS: One kid was concerned that the seeds would fall out of the holes because . . . they were already falling out of the holes. Great time to bring up bird behavior and how different species eat differently. Some seed-eaters will not fly up to feeders, but will scratch on the ground beneath one (sparrow family, for example). Some species will fly right up to a feeder and eat (cardinals and titmice, for example). Some seed-eaters can cling to a feeder that does not have a perch (chickadees, nuthatches), but some birds need a perch. It’s fun to watch a feeder and let observations trigger questions.
As for answers:
To ID or learn more about a bird, visit All About Birds from Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It’s an amazing resource.
The BIG IDEA of this project is to help repair the world. Birds are in trouble. All wildlife is in trouble. Why? Because humans destroy habitat every day. Anything we can do to help native habitat is good. Animals need food, water, cover and a place to raise young.
We can also call this work a mitzvah: tza’ar ba’aley chayim.
P.S. Now that I’ve gotten the tutorial out of the way, I can keep talking. I haven’t programmed this craft till now because I was troubled that the DIYs seemed to feature adults doing all the work. I want kids to do as much as possible. My method solves this. Kids do everything but cut the feed holes, which they can do perfectly well if I have the time to supervise them (I’d still make a pilot hole and then let them use pointy scissors). But, my Sunday School projects are meant for a crowd of kids who have but 25 minutes with me. This worked.
I also wasn’t thrilled that the bottles are so flimsy. Gatorade or fancy juice bottles like Naked would be sturdier, as would empty parmesan cheese shakers, but I collect empty water bottles from Field Day at my kids’ school every Fall, so that’s what I’ve got.
Turns out, these flimsy bottles will be just fine to attract birds to our courtyard so we can count them. But I’m still on the lookout for real wood feeders that our kids can assemble independently. Holler if you’ve seen any.