While youth are home over winter break, encourage them to do something fun that will attract wildlife. Nothing is more fun than watching birds or squirrels play in your yard. One way to make this happen is to provide a supplemental food source for them. You can create a special “Tree for Wildlife” in your yard. In fact, a great family activity is making some very inexpensive simple feeders. The most wonderful part is these feeders, they not only look attractive, but help wildlife survive through the winter.
You can create feeders out of bread, bird seed and a binding agent like eggs, lard or peanut butter. Cut stale bread into shapes with cookie cutters. Make a small hole in the top to put twine or string through. If using egg, brush the bread with egg wash and dip in seeds. Then let it dry for a day or so. Attach string and hang in the trees. If using lard or peanut butter, toast the bread to dry it out then spread like you would on a sandwich and roll in bird seed.
Another type of feeder that is popular especially if you have lots of pine trees are pine cone bird feeders. Attach string to a pine cone. Mix peanut butter and oats together then apply to pine cone. After the cone is covered with the mixture roll in bird seed. Lard can be used in place of peanut butter. Hang from tree.
One last type of feeder is using apple and orange slices. Cut thin slices of apples and oranges, attach string and hang each slice separately all around the tree.
Additional feeders could be strings of grapes, raisins, cranberries, raw peanuts, salt free crackers or popcorn. If you are using popcorn be sure it does not have butter and salt. Just use a needle and thread to make the strings. All edible decorations should be hung with biodegradable materials such as cotton string, twine, or thread.
For more information to help you invite wildlife into your yard check out Junior Master Gardener: Wildlife Gardener or Cornell Feeder Watch. Inviting wildlife into your yard provides a fun way for kids to develop a culture to care about nature, while teaching them about their environment. It also makes a great family traditional activity to do not only during the holiday season but throughout the year. 4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations and includes people from all economic, racial, social, political, and geographic categories. There are no barriers to participation by any young person. Participants are given the opportunity to engage in activities that hold their personal interest, while being guided by adult volunteers. The local 4-H Agent is a youth development professional who provides direction and program leadership as part of the nationwide Cooperative Extension System. For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension at http://florida4h.org/