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A twist on the classic cardboard tube bird feeder craft, this project invites kids to play with patterns and experiment with natural supplies for cool handmade bird feeders that are totally bird-safe!
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One of the fun things about living close to the Mississippi River is the variety of birds that visit our neighborhood. More than 325 bird species make a trip along the Mississippi Flyway every year. While most of them stick fairly close to the river’s edge, the marshes and small lakes surrounding our neighborhood get quite a few seasonal visitors, and we’ve spotted a handful of unique visitors right at our very own feeders.
Watch the quick tutorial below to see how these mosaic seed bird feeders are made!
Our August days have been warm, but we’ve already dipped back into the fifties a couple of nights, and up here in the North, migration season has officially begun for a few species of birds.
Of course, you don’t have to live near rivers or lakes to enjoy birds in your backyard. These homemade bird feeders are a great way to attract your local feathered friends.
To make your own seed mosaic bird feeders you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- Scrap cardboard (plain, unprinted, and glue-free)
- Two to three sticks
- A pen or pencil
- Scissors or a utility knife
- A kid-safe knife or popsicle stick
- A cookie sheet
- Cookie cutters
- Small pitchers
- An all-natural nut butter, coconut oil, or a palm-free shortening
- A bird seed mix
- Twine, rope, cording, or a ribbon
Safety Note: Remember to thoroughly wash hands before (and after) this project, and be mindful of any nut/seed allergies when picking your birdseed mix and spreadable supply.
How to Make a Seed Mosaic Bird Feeder – DIY Instructions:
- Cut a rectangle from a cardboard box and fold it in half
Use scissors or a utility knife to cut a rectangle from a cardboard box. Our rectangle was about 11.5-inches by 6-inches. Use a ruler to find the center, then fold your cardboard in half lengthwise to create a crease in the middle.
It’s important to use plain cardboard – free of glues or tapes and unprinted on at least one side. The printed side you see above won’t be the side the birds will be eating from.
- Poke holes in the cardboard for a stick perch
Near the bottom of your cardboard, at the center (on both sides) make a hole with scissors. This is for a stick perch, so you want the hole to be about the same as the diameter of your stick.
You can add just one stick perch (as I did for our video example) or two at either side (as I did for our second feeder example).
- Make sure your stick perch will fit
Test to make sure your stick perch will fit through the holes you’ve made.
Once you’ve made sure it will fit, take it back out and lay your cardboard flat.
- Cover one half of your cardboard with a natural nut butter
Spread a 100% natural nut butter, coconut oil, or palm-free shortening onto one half of your cardboard. Kids can also use a small spatula, popsicle stick, or even just their hands to spread the peanut butter on the cardboard.
Note: I find it easiest to do this kind of work on a cookie sheet. It will keep the seeds confined and also keep any stray peanut butter from getting on clean surfaces.
- Begin adding seeds
Once you have your peanut butter base down, you can start making your seed mosaic. You can use a toothpick to draw a design in your peanut butter, make lines of seeds, create shapes, or just begin sprinkling!
- Create shapes or patterns
Using a cookie cutter is a simple way to make interesting shapes and offers a bit of fine motor skill practice.
Using a pitcher is an easy way to cover an area with seeds, and has the added benefit of providing pouring practice.
- Add seed borders or other details (optional)
You can experiment with framing your design with a border of seeds.
- Gently press the seeds
Using a small glass (or any object with a hard, flat surface) gently stamp over your entire design, making sure the seeds have been pressed into the peanut butter.
- Decorate the opposite side
Time to add seeds to the other side! You can create a design that complements the side you’ve made, or try something completely different.
- Fold and insert the stick perch
Fold your cardboard into an a-frame, then gently insert your stick perch at the bottom.
Expect loose seeds to fall off when you fold your feeder. One thing I love about this activity is that it’s zero waste. Any seeds that don’t stick to the feeder can be tossed out into the garden!
- Tie on a twine hanger
Cut a length of twine (or similar material) to thread through the center of your cardboard feeder and tie it into a loop you can use to hang your feeder.
- Hang in a sheltered area
Find a good spot to hang your feeder where birds can spot it!
These feeders have been out for less than 24 hours and we’ve already made so many interesting observations – for one, almost all of the sunflower seeds are already gone! It’s fun to watch the patterns of our seed mosaics change by the hour, and it has us paying attention to the food preferences of the birds in our area at the moment.
For some mosaic seed art inspiration, crop art made from seeds has been a unique favorite of the Minnesota State Fair for over 50 years! Check out crop artist Linda Paulson demonstrating her art-making process.
Types of seeds to use with your seed mosaic bird feeders
Having a good mixture of seeds ensures you’ll attract a diverse group of birds, and will also give you a nice variety of natural colors and shapes to incorporate into your mosaic patterns. Here are a few of our favorites…
- A Songbird blend
- A fruit and nut bird seed blend
- Plain, unsalted peanuts
- Cracked corn
- Safflower seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- White millet
- Nyjer seed
Tips for attracting birds to your feeder
- Hang your homemade bird feeder in a protected area. Look for someplace that’s a bit sheltered from the elements, where squirrels won’t be able to rip into it and the rain won’t dampen the cardboard.
- Offer easy access to water. Birds need a little drink with their food just like we do! A bird bath filled with fresh, clean water will help attract them to your feeder. Here are some ideas to DIY your own simple bird bath.
- Make suncatchers or cut-out silhouettes for your windows. Keep visiting birds safe by making your windows visible with colorful suncatchers or cut-out silhouettes.
More backyard bird learning and play activities
- Try making different kinds of DIY bird feeders. This is just one feeder idea, and some birds will like it more than others. Experiment with making different kinds of feeders (like our DIY bird feeder wreath) or a fruit and grain garland feeder and watch to see how your local birds respond.
- Become a backyard birder. The Audobon for Kids is an amazing resource that will have your kids excited to grab a pair of binoculars and start their birding journey.
- Learn about the birds at your feeder. Identify and learn more about birds you’re spotting at your bird feeder. This summer alone we’ve seen Blue Jays, Finches, Wrens, Sparrows, Chickadees, Blackbirds, Cardinals, Cowbirds, Buntings, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Doves, Juncos, and more!
- Make bird nest helpers.
- Learn about birds through play. Sometimes a bit of pretend play is just the introduction kids need to get stoked about learning. Try our juice carton birdhouse and paper bag nest play activity to help younger kids discover bird habits and habitats.
If you’re loving this use of nature supplies, learn how to prep and preserve natural materials for crafts and play.