A great family project for bird lovers is turning an ordinary 2-liter plastic bottle into a functional bird feeder. These simple feeders are perfectly functional and can help backyard birders feed more birds without purchasing expensive feeders. As a family project, it teaches the value of both recycling and wildlife conservation.
While this project is easy enough for children to do, proper adult supervision is always a good idea.
Tools and Supplies You Will Need
The most common bottles for this project are ordinary 2-liter beverage bottles, but just about any plastic bottle will work, including water bottles, sports drink bottles, or even plastic ketchup or jelly containers. For perches, you can use woodworking dowels, unsharpened pencils, chopsticks, twigs, or any other similar stick.
- Plastic bottle
- Perch sticks, 8 to 10 inches long and about 1/4 inch thick
- Metal screw hook
- Polyurethane glue (such as Gorilla glue)
- Awl or another puncturing tool
- Utility knife
Clean the Bottle
Clean and dry the bottle thoroughly, removing any labels. Use a weak bleach solution to be sure the bottle is sanitized, then rinse thoroughly. Allow the bottle to air dry for several hours or overnight to ensure that no moisture remains inside, which could cause the seeds to spoil.
Attach the Hanger Hook
Screw the hook into the center of the bottle's cap, making sure it is firm and tight. If necessary, you can use an awl or nail to start the hole, which will make it easier to screw in the hook.
After the hook is fully inserted, seal both sides (inside and out) with a drop of polyurethane glue to provide extra strength and to keep moisture out of the feeder. Avoid getting glue on the cap's threads, however, as you will need to open the bottle whenever you refill it with seeds.
Cut holes large enough to fit the perches completely through the bottle, about 1 1/2 inches from the bottom of the bottle. The perch dowels should fit snugly into the holes and extend completely across the bottle and out the matching hole on the opposite side. When inserting the perches, balance the length of the perch on each end to allow birds to feed comfortably. A small bit of glue can also be used to secure perches and keep the holes from widening or loosening.
If desired, add additional perches higher on the bottle. Each additional perch should be 2 to 3 inches higher than the last and rotated around the bottle from where the last perch was located. This creates the most space for birds to perch. The top perch should be 3 to 4 inches below the cap.
Cut Feeding Ports
Cut feeding ports 1 to 2 inches above each perch, using a utility knife. The ports should be 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide, depending on the type of seed you will use—use larger holes for mixed seed or sunflower seeds, and smaller holes for Nyjer or millet. Oval-shaped holes that are taller than they are wide will be easier for birds to feed on.
Fill With Seed
Slowly fill the feeder with the desired seed. If the feeding ports are too big, placing a piece of clear tape over them and recutting smaller holes in the tape can fix the problem. If desired, you can add crumpled paper, decorative marbles or gravel to fill the very bottom of the feeder, occupying the space below the feeding ports where the seeds are out of reach of the bids.
Hang the Feeder
Hang the feeder outside from a tree branch or other support structure and wait for birds to discover it. It won't take long.
If you have more excess plastic bottles, there are other bird feeder designs you can try:
- Cut a single broad feeding window from one side of the bottle, 2 to 3 inches from the bottom. This will limit the amount of seed the feeder can hold—you'll only be able to fill it up to the level of the window—but this design can be built and hung very quickly.
- Turn the bottle upside down to create a seed or nectar reservoir, and purchases ready-made feeder and perch attachments to convert the bottle into a nifty feeder. This is fast and easy but does require the extra purchase of attachments.
You can also use plastic water bottles or soda bottles in other ways to help birds:
- Use bottles to create a loose, movable baffle to keep squirrels from climbing poles or wires and getting into your bird feeder.
- Cut the bottom off a large bottle and use the plastic disk to create a roof shelter for a small feeder.
- Convert half a bottle into a simple ant moat to keep insects out of nectar feeders.
Tips for Feeding Birds
To keep your new bird feeder at its best for the birds: