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© Melpo Apostolidou, BirdLife Cyprus

7 crafts to get kids into birding: from easy to expert

We’ve selected crafts from across the world that will delight children and benefit birds. From ten-minute fruit kebabs to a summer spent birdhouse building, we’ve got projects for every age and timespan: all you need to do is pick your skill level.

 

By Jessica Law

Let’s face it: kids are much more likely to watch birds coming to a feeder that they’ve made themselves. We see birds every day, but if you want to get into the mind-set of a bird, and really think about what life is like for the fluttering friends on the other side of the window, you need to get your hands dirty – or, at least, slightly sticky with peanut butter. Here are just a few ideas to inspire the young’uns in your life to embrace what could become a lifelong passion…

 

1. Window decorations

Skill level: easy

Time: 30 minutes

 

© Czech Society for Ornithology

As this heartfelt video shows, large windows are a big problem for birds. Birds fly into windows because they don’t see them, or because reflections of trees and sky make them think there is a way through. Some particularly aggressive birds will even attack their own reflections. But the solution is simple: spend a few minutes cutting out stick-on decorations for your windows. You can go wild with the designs, but the most effective silhouette is thought to be that of a fearsome hawk or falcon.

And if you still happen upon a bird lying below a window, the best thing to do is to put it on a darkened box in a quiet place for an hour or two, and then let it go.

 

2. Fruit bird feeders

Skill level: easy

Time: 10-20 minutes

© David Tipling, RSPB images
© David Tipling, RSPB images

Providing food is an easy way to make a real difference for the birds in your neighbourhood as they weather cold winters, refuel for migration, or rush about feeding their chicks. These delicious hanging delicacies couldn’t be simpler. All they’re made of is string, wire and the food itself. From a fruit kebab hung with apples, raisins and other sweet treats, to a feeder made out of half an orange, they’re a great way to prevent food waste. And if you want something even simpler than that, just coat an apple core in peanut butter, roll it in birdseed and hang it up. This is great for giving birds the fat, protein and vitamins they need (unlike boring old bread).

3. Bird bingo

Skill level: intermediate

Time: one hour

© Natagora (BirdLife in Belgium)
© Natagora (BirdLife in Belgium)

If in doubt, gamify it! After all, birding is basically just Pokemon Go, but in real life (well, sort of). Before you go into the field or forest, get competitive kids excited about the birds they could spot with this fun game. Your bird bingo cards could be an extravagant visual feast, or simple but effective – it’s up to you, and there are loads of bingo card templates online to get you started. Just have a think about the species you might spot, and maybe add a couple of rarer “wild cards”…

If your kid prefers diaries to games, why not encourage them to decorate a notebook as their first birding journal? Here are a few tips.

 

4. Self-filling bird bath

Skill level: intermediate

Time: 30 minutes

© Melpo Apostolidou, BirdLife Cyprus
© Melpo Apostolidou, BirdLife Cyprus

Providing water for birds to drink and bathe in is almost as important as food, especially in the parched summer months, or in winter, when all other water is frozen. A bird bath can be as simple as a tray perched on a flowerpot. But if you want to be really clever, you can make one that keeps itself constantly topped up as birds drink. Just remember to keep your bird baths high off the ground if cats are lurking, and to clean them out regularly so that birds don’t get ill from dirty or stagnant water.

 

5. Recycled bird feeder

Skill level: intermediate

Time: one hour

© David Tipling, RSPB images
© David Tipling, RSPB images

You’ll be doing birds a double service with these. Not only will you provide them with a nutritious banquet, you’ll also reduce waste, especially plastic waste, which is especially harmful to wildlife. You can make a great bird feeder out of a plastic bottle and a pencil, a milk or juice carton, or even just a humble toilet roll – which actually turns out looking quite classy, we promise…

 

6. Artificial swallow’s nest

Skill level: expert

Time: half a day / one day

© SEO / BirdLife Spain
© SEO / BirdLife Spain

Which birds would you love to see nesting in your garden? You can make your dream a reality and bring the magic of hatching and fledging into your child’s life. All you need to do is help them to build the right kind of nest box.

In Europe, Barn Swallow numbers have dropped by 30% since 1990. One of the reasons for this drop is that our ever-expanding cities don’t contain enough mud for them to build their nests. Leaving buckets of mud out for them helps, but you can help even further by building an artificial swallow’s nest, which is great fun to make – nothing feels better than sinking your fingers into soft clay!

And if you want to give bird species a home, here are some great instructions on how to make a bird box from a wooden pallet.

 

7. Boutique bird feeder

Skill level: expert

Time: half a day / one day

© pxhere.com
© pxhere.com

Got a budding artist in the family? Want your garden to look like a scene from Alice in Wonderland? Or just like a challenge? These spectacular bird feeders use ordinary objects to transform any garden into a sumptuous bower. Check out this one made from a bowl and saucer, this one made from a wine bottle, or why not come up with your own based on unused (bird-safe) objects you have around the house? These projects may need a few more tools and a bit more help from you, but if you’re keen to give it a go, they’re definitely worth it.

 

Just think outside the box

Remember, these are just a few tips to get you started. We hope that they will inspire you to think up other ways of passing on your love of birds to the next generation. Who knows – the time you spent sticking seeds to a toilet roll could be the formative moment in the career of a conservation trailblazer…

If you want to help birds further, you can read our 12 simple actions that make life better for birds, or take the Year of the Bird pledge at www.birdyourworld.org.

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