Create a list of articles to read later. You will be able to access your list from any article in Discover.
You don't have any saved articles.
Bring nature to your doorstep by keeping wild birds fed with a homemade bird feeder.
Follow our steps to build a seed feeder from a reused plastic bottle.
Not only do bird feeders bring more local birds into your garden so you can see them up-close, they provide an invaluable food source, particularly during times of year when resources might be scarce.
Bird species present in UK gardens change throughout the year, but there will always be some birds around looking for a tasty snack. A bird feeder can be great fun for getting to know different species and watching how they behave.
Different types of feed and feeder will attract different species. The homemade feeder shown in the video above is a quick, cheap seed feeder which can attract a wide range of common garden bird species.
Written instructions can be found below.
Alternatively, find out how to make fat balls to give birds the extra energy they need to survive winter.
Take care when cutting into plastic bottles. Sharp plastic can cause cuts, both for you and the birds you'll be feeding. Feathers can also get caught on jagged edges, so try to make the holes in the bottle as smooth as possible.
You will need two sticks to use as perches. These need to be wider than the bottle by around 10 centimetres, so there is enough space for birds to perch on each side.
As with any bird feeder, plastic bottle feeders can be cleaned with boiling water. This type of feeder won't last forever, however, and should be replaced every so often. This prevents a build-up of rotting food and bacteria that could harm the birds using your feeder.
Where possible, please clean and recycle your plastic bottles.
1. Remove the cap from a clean plastic bottle. Use the pin to puncture several small drainage holes in the base of the bottle.
2. Use the pin to make two level holes on opposite sides of the bottle, near to the base. Use the scissors to widen them slightly.
3. Push a stick through the holes. There should be around 5 centimetres of stick left outside the bottle on each side for the perches.
4. Slightly above each perch, use the scissors to cut a feeding hole the size of a 5p coin.
5. Create a second set of perches and feeding holes: repeat steps 2 to 4 further up the sides of the bottle and offset by 90° from the original.
6. Use the pin to make two holes in the neck of the bottle, on opposite sides and level with each other. Widen these with scissors.
7. Thread the string through the holes, then fill the bottle with a bird food and replace the bottle cap. You may need to make a funnel with a sheet of paper to make filling the bottle easier.
8. Find a sheltered location outside to hang your feeder - tying it onto a tree branch or washing line would work well.
9. Watch from a distance or indoors for birds to begin landing on your feeder. It may take a few days before this begins to happen.
10. Identify the birds that come to feed. You can use books, mobile apps and the internet to help you.
A variety of ready-to-use bird feeders are widely available. You could look for them in pet shops, large supermarkets and online. Squirrel-proof feeders are available, as are feeders which only allow the seed to be accessed by smaller garden birds, so you get fewer pigeons, which can be a pest in some areas.
There is a large variety of bird food available - some has general appeal while others are preferred by certain species. Mealworms are a good purchase for insect-eating birds such as robins and sparrows.
Sunflower hearts are popular with a wide variety of garden birds. Black sunflower seeds are another crowd pleaser. Suet balls and blocks are high-energy foods that can contain a variety of seeds, cereals and sometimes mealworms. They also generally create less mess on the ground, meaning you are less likely to attract unwanted rodents. You can also easily make your own fat balls by following our instructions.
Seed mixes are another popular option, but they can sometimes leave a mess or even some additional plants in your garden. No-mess mixes are available that avoid these issues.
The homemade bird feeder we have described here is not suitable for peanut feeding. Peanuts aren't always suitable for birds - those for human consumption are often coated in large amounts of salt. Peanuts can also be a choking hazard, especially if adult birds feed them to their chicks, and in some cases they are toxic due to certain moulds that can grow on them.
If you do want to feed peanuts, however, make sure to use a specialist feeder designed specifically for peanuts, purchase bird-feed peanuts only and clean your feeder regularly.
You should regularly empty and clean all feeders to help keep the birds in your garden healthy. Most feeders can be cleaned by carefully pouring boiling water over them.
Watch out for cats. Birds at a feeder are an easy target. Hang the feeder away from shadowy areas where cats may be lurking, but make sure it's still within a short distance from trees and bushes.
It may take a while, perhaps a few days, before you regularly see birds at a new feeder. Keep the feeder filled and eventually they should begin stopping by.
The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch takes place every January. You can take part by keeping watch for avian garden visitors and recording what you see. The data you collect helps experts understand how birds across the UK are doing.
To help identify what you've seen, the iNaturalist app (available on Apple's App store and Google Play) suggests identifications based on your photos. You can also log the species you see.
If you're in the UK and are having trouble identifying a bird, you can send your photos to the Museum's Identification and Advisory Service. Sending details of where and when you spotted the bird will also help.
... or that it helped you learn something new. Now we're wondering if you can help us.
Every year, more people are reading our articles to learn about the challenges facing the natural world. Our future depends on nature, but we are not doing enough to protect our life support system.
British wildlife is under threat. The animals and plants that make our island unique are facing a fight to survive. Hedgehog habitats are disappearing, porpoises are choking on plastic and ancient woodlands are being paved over.
But if we don't look after nature, nature can't look after us. We must act on scientific evidence, we must act together, and we must act now.
Despite the mounting pressures, hope is not lost. Museum scientists are working hard to understand and fight against the threats facing British wildlife.
For many, the Museum is a place that inspires learning, gives purpose and provides hope. People tell us they 'still get shivers walking through the front door', and thank us for inspiring the next generation of scientists.
To reverse the damage we've done and protect the future, we need the knowledge that comes from scientific discovery. Understanding and protecting life on our planet is the greatest scientific challenge of our age. And you can help.
We are a charity and we rely on your support. No matter the size, every gift to the Museum is critical to our 300 scientists' work in understanding and protecting the natural world.
From as little as £2, you can help us to find new ways to protect nature. Thank you.