My kids will be the first to tell you that I have a mild obsession with birds. Nothing stops me in my tracks like a pretty bird. I like to watch them, feed them, identify them, photograph them and count them! I haven’t turned the kids into avid bird watchers like myself yet, but I’m hoping this fun project will change that.
A hummingbird feeder is a perfect first project to get kids interested in bird watching. While they’ll need an adult’s help constructing the feeder, they can easily make the hummingbird food themselves. Once they see hummingbirds visiting their creation, they’ll be eager to keep the feeder clean and full of food.
We made our hummingbird feeder using a tutorial from Stars & Sunshine. You can easily find and buy hummingbird feeders in most home improvement or pet stores, but I’m always thrilled when I can show the kids ways to upcycle materials we already have on hand for a completely different purpose.
Once you have your feeder ready to go, it’s time to get busy in the kitchen making the sweet nectar they enjoy! The nectar found in nature is made up of 21% – 23% sucrose. Sucrose is found in regular table sugar. To make your own “nectar,” mix 4 parts water to 1 part table sugar in a saucepan. This is a good opportunity to see how well the kids understand percentages. Will our hummingbird food contain more sugar or water?
Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove it from the heat. Continue stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved. Have they ever wondered if water temperature makes a difference when dissolving sugar? While one person stirs the hot water, have another stir the same amount of sugar into cold water. Set a timer and see how long it takes to dissolve the sugar and whose sugar dissolves first.
Once the sugar is dissolved, allow the mixture to cool before filling the feeder. You can make a large batch of nectar and store it in the refrigerator so that you don’t have to whip up a new batch every time the feeder needs refilling.
Contrary to what you might have heard, you don’t need to add red food coloring to the food to attract hummingbirds. You can attract them without resorting to artificial coloring by either using red materials to make your feeder or by decorating your feeder with a red ribbon or paint.
Hang your feeder near a window if possible so that you can watch the hummingbirds eat from indoors. Count how many birds you see on any given day. If you live in warmer climates, you can participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count in February. Besides practicing those counting skills, those numbers provide valuable information to scientists studying bird populations and migration patterns.
Remember to change the nectar every few days to prevent mold and bacterial growth. In cooler temperatures you can leave it for up to 7 days, but as the temperature creeps up you should check it every 3-4 days. Clean out the feeder before refilling it with fresh nectar.
While you’re waiting for your first guests at the feeder, share some of these cool hummingbird facts with the kids:
⁃ A hummingbird’s heart beats up to 1,260 times per minute.
⁃ A hummingbird’s metabolism is roughly 100x that of an elephant.
⁃ Hummingbirds weigh between 2 and 20 grams. If you have a kitchen scale, have the kids gather some items around the house they think weigh about as much as a hummingbird. Weigh them and see how close they come.
⁃ A hummingbird’s wings will beat about 70 times per second – too fast for us to count! How many times can your kids flap their arms in a second? A minute?
The next time someone tries to tell you math is for the birds, you can shake your head in agreement. Birds and math go together hand in hand, er – wing!