If “the weather outside is frightening” think of the birds and how low temperatures and wind, ice and snow make foraging for food hard. Think too about how cabin fever has you aching for a diversion. Then collect what you need, gather the family, and get busy making pinecone bird feeders.
At the top of the list of ingredients is pinecones. The best ones are fully open. You’ll need twine, string or monofilament for hanging the feeder. Attaching this at the beginning of the project is easier than after you’ve filled the spaces. Tie the string around the pinecone, allowing three feet or more for hanging. Some folks like to tie around the wider stem end of the pinecone; others prefer tying nearer the top, between the third and fourth rows. Do you like the look of upside down or right side up? Decide which way makes more sense to you.
If squirrels share your yard, using monofilament might keep the squirrels at bay. Personally, I doubt anything is foolproof, but watching the squirrels do their best to get to the bird feeder provides entertainment aplenty.
Peanut butter is the easiest filling for the spaces of the pinecone; however, less expensive alternatives are vegetable shortening, lard, or suet mixed with corn meal or oatmeal. One-half cup of shortening and one-half cup of corn meal or oatmeal well blended makes enough mix for one large pinecone.
Carefully spread the peanut butter between the layers of the pinecone, on the bottom and around the edges. Smooth peanut butter is easier to spread, but chunky peanut butter gives nut eating birds an added treat.
Next pour wild bird seeds into a pie pan or on a cookie sheet. Different birds prefer different seeds, but most seed eating birds flock to black oil sunflower seeds. If you plan to offer black oil sunflower seeds regularly, use hulled seeds. Yes, they are more expensive, but they do not create the mess of hulls piling up beneath the feeder.
Safflower seeds are small white powerhouses of fat and protein, and squirrels typically dislike their bitter taste. Among seed eaters are woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches as well as goldfinches, finches, chickadees, and northern cardinals.
Roll the peanut butter filled pinecone in the seeds. Pat the seeds in place. You can also press small bits of dried fruit or chopped nuts into the peanut butter.
Hang the feeder from a tree and watch as birds flock to the newest diner in their neighborhood. The birds will be grateful for the high-energy treat, and you will be in for a treat too. You may be hard pressed to know one bird from another, but you can enjoy watching and appreciate the beauty of our feathered friends.
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