Remember that scene from A Christmas Story when the little brother, Randy, is getting wrapped head to toe like he was going ‘extended deep-sea diving’ to venture out into the snow?
Multiply that operation ten- or twenty-fold, and you’ll have an idea of what our naturalist educators accomplish when they take Habitat Explorer students out in the parks. Once bundled in puffy coats, balaclavas, and lots of animal-themed hats, these 1st graders go on an expedition in the parks to learn about the woods in winter.
Their goal? Exploring the parks woodlands and spotting birds! (And we don’t mean the Angry variety.)
Winter bird watching
Birds need to eat all day long to stay warm in the winter. They can survive without humans because they’re pros at finding seeds on plants all over Pittsburgh to keep them full. As part of our Habitat Explorers curriculum, students learn about local birds and what they eat, then make bagel birdfeeders to hang so that they can observe their feathered friends up close and personal.
How to: Make your own backyard feeder
In just a few steps, you can bring Pittsburgh’s resident winter birds to your backyard by making bagel birdfeeders just like our Habitat Explorers. And since the cold months are a calm time when many birds have finished their migration, learning to identify Pittsburgh’s birds in winter is the time to start. Here’s a helpful resource to get familiar with some common local birds.
- A bagel (one bagel will make two feeders)
- An 8” piece of string for each feeder (cotton or other natural fiber are recommended because they will decompose)
- Vegetable shortening
- A butter knife
- A sharp knife
- A plate or shallow container
- The perfect branch or bush to hang your feeder
- Carefully cut the bagel in half. (Pro tip: It helps do this a day or more ahead of time so it gets stale. The birds don’t mind, and it makes it easier to spread the shortening!)
- Tie the string through the hole of the bagel half so it can hang on a tree.
- Put birdseed on a plate or shallow container. (No birdseed? Unsalted, flavor-less sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, millet, chopped peanuts, barley, and coarse ground corn meal also work.)
- Spread the shortening on the flat side of the bagel. This can be hard for small hands, so be ready to help out!
- Press the shortening covered side of the bagel into the seeds so they stick to the shortening.
- Gently shake the bagel over the plate or outside to remove excess seeds.
- Hang your birdfeeder near your house and watch the birds!
We recommend hanging your bagel birdfeeder somewhere you can see for best bird spotting. Do you have a tree near a window? Perfect! Birds like to feel secure, so choosing a feeder location in a tree or bush where birds can go to take shelter from cats, hawks and other predators is extra appealing.
Mike Cornell, Naturalist Educator with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy