Thursday, April 24, 2014

Attract birds to your yard with a simple feeder

By Lisa Justice

Winter can be a great time to observe birds in your own back yard. Birds that spend their winter in the Davis area are always on the lookout for something to eat. By providing a reliable food source for local birds in your back yard, you can create a wonderful opportunity to observe wildlife from the comfort of your own home.

And the best part is that you don’t even need a fancy bird feeder. You can make your own with a pine cone and a few simple supplies around the house.

You’ll need a pine cone, a piece of string, some peanut butter, a table knife or spatula, a shallow dish and some birdseed.

Use the table knife or spatula to spread peanut butter on the pine cone. The peanut butter helps the birdseed stick and also may attract some other interesting wildlife, like squirrels, for you to observe. If you’re allergic to peanut butter, you can substitute almond butter.

Once your pinec one is covered in peanut butter, pour some birdseed in the shallow dish. Then roll your pine cone in the seed. Make sure your cone is loaded with plenty of seeds to attract lots of birds.

Now you’re ready to hang your bird feeder outside. Try hanging it from a tree branch where birds normally hang out to make it easy for the birds to find.

Also, think about placing it somewhere you can view easily. Maybe you want to hang it near a window so you can observe from indoors.

To hang your bird feeder, tie one end of the string to the top of your pine cone. Then tie the other to the tree branch where you want the feeder to hang.

Now, get to work observing. Check your feeder for a few minutes every day. What kinds of birds stop by to use it? Are there lots of different types of birds, or just one or two? Can you identify them? How frequently do they come? Do other animals use the feeder, too?

Keep track of the birds and other animals that use your feeder by keeping a journal. Make note of the days and times your feeder gets used and what types of birds you observe. You may see a finch or a wren or a magpie.

You also can keep track of your bird observations by taking pictures of the creatures that visit your feeder. You can then share your pictures by uploading them to Explorit’s facebook page.

Be sure to refresh your feeder with more birdseed and peanut butter every few days or as needed to keep your feathered friends coming back for more.

— Explorit’s newest Exhibition, “Forces of Nature,” is open the first full weekend of every month from 1 to 5 p.m. This exhibition welcomes the public back to the Explorit Nature Center at 3141 Fifth St., and will feature some of the best of Explorit’s past exhibits. For more information, call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or “like” Explorit on Facebook at

Special to The Enterprise


Discussion | 2 comments

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  • rcJanuary 13, 2012 - 4:06 am

    Keep in mind you may be unintentionally providing a smorgasbord for neighborhood cats if you don't carefully consider how you're placing a feeder e.g., how close it is to shrubs/hiding locations. Rather than just a "quick fix" like a feeder, think about looking into enhancing the all around habitat your yard provides for birds by planting native plants that can provide nesting habitat as well as food. Here are a couple of notes from Audubon's website about potential hazards of feeders: "...Protect birds from window collisions. In the United States, approximately 1 billion birds die from flying into windows each year. Protect birds from collisions by placing feeders within three feet of windows, if possible. Mobiles and opaque decorations hanging outside windows help to prevent bird strikes, or attach fruit tree netting outside windows to deflect birds from the glass. Keep cats indoors. The location of your feline friends is important, too. Cats kill hundreds of millions of birds annually in the United States, often pouncing on ground-feeding birds and those dazed by window collisions. Responsible and caring cat owners keep their cats indoors, where they are also safer from traffic, disease, and fights with other animals. Outdoor cats are especially dangerous to birds in the spring when fledglings are on the ground. Bells on cat collars are usually ineffective for deterring predation."

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  • Neil J. RubenkingJanuary 14, 2012 - 9:35 am

    I'm afraid the lovely pinecone would last maybe one day in my small-ish backyard; LOTS of birds visit. I have a simple birdseed feeder on a "shepherd's crook" pole, hanging away from cats. Doves use this feeder, and tons of "LBBs" (little brown birds). We've occasionally had redwing blackbirds. At the window is an eight-perch Nyjer seed feeder for goldfinches (often all eight are full and more goldfinches waiting for a turn). I keep the big hummingbird feeder full of fresh nectar. And the local scrub jays love peanuts. They are SMART; they will come to the window of whatever room we're in and peer at us, squawking for a handout. I get birdseed for the regular feeder in 40-lb bags at CostCo; it'd be too expensive otherwise. Nyjer in 20-lb bags from Ace (one bag lasts most of a season). Peanuts for the jays from CostCo too. Oh, and then there's the other interpretation of "bird feeder". We have a sharp-shinned hawk that visits every few months to feed on the birds. A bit awful to watch, but that's nature for you.

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