There’s a simple way to make the backyard a little wilder even if you call the city home.
by Becca Cahall
We’ve all seen children’s eyes widen at the sight of a butterfly weaving across a backyard breeze or deer grazing at the fence line. Kids dig animals. Helicopters are also pretty cool. In the animal kingdom, the rapidly beating, invisible wings of a darting hummingbird are as close as it gets to whirling rotors.
Hummingbirds eat a lot — they consume approximately 2/3 of their body weight every day. So when an easy source of sustenance appears, hummingbirds take full advantage of a free meal. It’s kind of like offering your climbing bum friends the leftover pizza in the fridge. Many people put hummingbird feeders in their yard to catch a close up glimpse of a species that never seems to be in one place for long. Over 15 different species have been recorded in the U.S. While most are restricted to warm places (S. Texas, Arizona and New Mexico), a few common species are distributed across the U. S. You and your kids can make a feeder from materials that you have around the house. It’s a quick project, which will yield results later in the spring.
1. Clean jar thoroughly, rinse clear of soap, and dry.
2. With tool, punch 3 smallish holes in a semicircle in jar lid. Make them somewhat close together. Make sure the lid still attaches properly.
3. After punching, make sure that there are not sharp fragments that the hummingbirds can cut their tongues on. I hammered the rough edges to flatten them, and then used some sandpaper for fine-tuning.
4. Hummingbirds love red. Put some red on your feeder- paint, beads or other items you may have around the house. But, don’t use red food dye in the sugar water as the chemicals are harmful to hummingbirds.
5. Wrap string/wire around mouth of jar. Make sure the knot is opposite the holes in the lid. You can use hot glue or super glue to secure if you like.
6. Fill jar about three quarters full with sugar water (see below). Make sure that you keep the jar upright until you hang it outside as it may drip initially.
7. Mix 4 parts hot water to 1 part sugar. Stir to dissolve. Cool completely before placing in the feeder. Remaining sugar water can be kept in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Discard the sugar water in the feeder every 4-7 days to ensure that mixture does not ferment – you don’t want this turn into a lesson on how alcohol impairs motor skills. Rinse jar, and replace with new sugar water.
8. Hang the feeder from a tree branch or from your home’s eaves.
Fun facts and teaching points for kids
If you want to try and identify the hummingbird that vists your feeder, check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Search for hummingbird and check out the photos and range maps.
More info at Gardening With Kids.
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