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  • Sara Thompson

Make a bird feeder from recycled materials

This article first appeared in the 9/18/20 edition of the Davis Enterprise

As fall and winter approaches in Northern California some of the birds in our area will migrate away to warmer climates, but some will remain.  Many of the birds who stick around during the winter spend most of their days looking for food and avoiding the weather.  One way to help out our feathered friends during the winter would be to put out a birdfeeder with healthy birdfeed for them to eat and survive.  During these trying times it may not be possible to go to the store to buy a birdfeeder, so we will discuss a way you can make one using materials you may already have at home.

The materials you will need are: milk jug or plastic bottle (20oz or larger), sharp knife or box cutter, wooden dowel (6 inches or longer), string or chord, birdseed, markers (optional) small drill (optional).  Please ask an adult to do the steps involving the sharp knife or box cutter and the optional small drill.

Use the knife or box cutter to cut an opening in the side of the plastic bottle.  Do not cut all the way to the bottom as seeds will spill out.  We find it easier to cut a square shape, you may choose to leave the cut part attached at the top to provide some protection for the opening, or just remove it completely.  Next, use the knife or box cutter again to poke a hold beneath the opening you made and place the wooden dowel through it, so it stays in the bottle, but there is enough left on the outside for a bird to perch on.  This piece doesn’t need to be a wooden dowel, they just work well.  You could also use plastic cutlery, spare wood pieces, anything that is strong enough to hold the weight of a bird when perched.

Next, use your markers to decorate the bottle if you want to.  Some birds may be attracted to a brightly colored feeder, while others may shy away from it.  If you make multiple bottles test to see which ones are attracting and which ones are deterring the neighborhood birds.

To hang your birdfeeder there are a few options.  You can use a drill to make a small hole in the lid of the bottle.  Thread a chord or thick string through and tie a knot on the inside part of the lid so it will not slide through.  This will leave you more of the chord of sting on the outside to tie around a tree branch.  If you do not have a drill, you can poke a pair holes opposite each other near the top to thread your sting through.  Now all you have to do is put birdseed into the bottom of the plastic bottle for the birds to find.

Campers attending our Earth Advocates Fall Camp will make bird feeders and more from recycled materials.  The camp will focus heavily on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and campers will make and build a variety of things from recycled materials and learn how to repurpose items at home as well.  Registration for Fall Camps is ongoing and can be found at

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