Enjoy the world of wild birds

Take time during the holidays and introduce your children to birds, the ones outside the window.

Take time during the holidays and introduce your children to birds, the ones outside the window.

Birds like all wild animals spend most of their time looking for food. While putting a bird feeder in the yard will not guarantee a flock of birds, it is a step in the right direction.

First, the birds must discover the feeder before it becomes a stop of their daily feeding tour. Feeders that are continually full have more visitors than ones that occasionally have food. Do not worry about the birds dying if your feeder is empty as they likely have many different sources of food.

A feeder can be as simple as spreading seed on the ground. Ground feeding birds will appreciate the treat. The down side to this type of feeder it the mess of left over seeds in the spring. Do not use this type of feeder if cats are a problem.

A slightly more complex feeder can be made by cutting a hole in the side of a 4 litre milk jug. Seeds are then placed inside and the feeder is hung outside.

Granted, this type of feeder is not aesthetically pleasing but it will attract birds and most children can complete the task with little or no help. All that is needed is a felt pen, knife with a retractable blade or a pair of sharp scissors.

Draw a circle on the side of the milk container. The size depends on the type and size of bird that will be feeding; the larger the hole, the larger the birds that will fit. Make the hole one to 1½ inches (two to three cm) from the bottom to keep the seed in the container. Cut the hole, smoothing out sharp pointy edges and the feeder is finished.

Suet balls are another type of feeder that many birds flock to during the cold months. The ingredients tend to be sticky so for ease of cleanup, cover the mixing area with newspaper or plastic. It is possible to render lard into suet but it is much easier to purchase pure lard and mix it one-half and one-half with peanut butter. Add nuts, whole grains and small portions of dried fruit then mix together using a large spoon.

When the mixture is combined, place the mixture it in a net bag and attach a string. Suet balls are gooey and the process can be messy. Do not try to make a suet ball with a child that gets upset when their hands are dirty.

Once finished, take the ball outside and hang it as far off the ground as possible. If placed too close to the ground, dogs might enjoy the snack before birds have the chance.

Older children might enjoy assembling a wooden feeder. Unless the child proficient with tools, putting a feeder together is a joint activity between a child and adult.

If your child lives to shop, there are many different types of feeders on the market. Choose one that fits your budget and yard. While they might not have made the feeder they can still enjoy filling it and watching the birds.

Having a good bird book that contains pictures of the common birds in the area add to the enjoyment and educational experience. Books on Birds of Alberta can be found at the public library, at book stores and various outlets.

Central Alberta has a wealth of information about birds. Kerry Wood Nature Center is open year round at 6300 45th Ave. They can be contacted at 403-346-2010.

The Red Deer River Naturalists can be contacted at 403-347-8200.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at your_garden@hotmail.com

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