Engaging youth in bird feeding

Feeding birds is a great activity for youth that is engaging and educational. Find out some ideas to make it useful and fun.

Get youth involved with bird feeding, a fun, winter activity!

Get youth involved with bird feeding, a fun, winter activity!

Winter is just around the corner and birds can use some supplemental feed to help them through the cold and snow. Plus, they are fun to watch from the comforts of your warm home. Now is the time to prepare your feeders to make the most of this experience. Having youth help will introduce them to bird watching and feeding. This can lead to a variety of activities youth can enjoy for years to come.          

Feeding birds is easy, which lends itself well to getting youth involved. Begin by having youth investigate what kinds of birds are in your area. Based on this knowledge, they can decide what type of seed is best and ultimately what type of feeders to use. Have youth create a budget and then shop for the correct seed and feeder style.

There are some specialty stores and garden centers that sell bird feeders. Many large retail stores also sell bird feeders. Have youth review the various choices and don’t hesitate to have them ask questions. Keep in mind important considerations such as cost, size, functionality and durability.

Another great option is to spend some time building your own feeders. Multiple bird feeder kits and plans are available online. Youth enjoy making things, particularly items that are put to good use. New materials make nice feeders and are easy to work with. Reusing otherwise discarded items is an option that gives new life to an old item. If you are using previously used bird feeders, make sure they are clean and free from any harmful bacteria. Let youth make their decisions and then collect materials they need.

Once feeders are assembled and seed is available, it is time to mount or hang a feeder. Ask youth where they think is the best location. Consider nearby hiding places for birds, viewing options from inside, protection from the elements and ease of filling. What may be good for an adult may not be best for youth. Also, be mindful of squirrels. They like an easy meal!

Let the observations begin. Have youth identify the various birds that visit and keep track of the number of each specie. Youth can record what time birds arrive at feeders and when is the most activity occurring. Youth should try to monitor how much seed is being used on a monthly basis to help with budgeting. Creating a chart to record observations and make notes is advisable and another good skill for youth.

A variety of other skills can be incorporated as well, like creating and maintaining a bird feeding station. Research, budgeting, wise consumerism, shopping, entrepreneurship and record keeping are just some of the skills that can be developed in youth. These are valuable life skills that are hands-on, which fits well with the 4-H motto, “learn by doing.”

Bird feeding lasts five to six months depending on location, costs and environmental conditions. Make the most of it with youth and have fun! Visit the Michigan State University Extension website to read “Winter is bird feeder time!,” a previous article about bird feeder type, placement, preparation and seed type.

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