These easy bird feeders made from recycled water bottles are perfect for all of the wild birds that enjoy nijer seed including American goldfinches, Dark-eyed juncos, Purple finches, Indigo buntings, and more.
This would be a great project to oversee with a group of kids or adults. The supplies are cheap or free and you can make a lot of them in one afternoon. Also see, DIY bird and butterfly water feeder.
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DIY Water Bottle Bird Feeders
I was noticing quite a line up at my goldfinch feeder lately so I thought it was time to expand the dining space. The perches fill up with noshing visitors, and the rest of the birds wait their turn from nearby tree branches. Goldfinches (and many other small birds) are such a social bunch that I thought they would enjoy having more feeders to speed up the dining queue.
These bird feeders are simple and quick to make but you do need to take care with a few things.
For a feeder to work properly, you want the seed to be kept dry and clean and (of course) be easily accessible to the right birds. This design is great for that.
To get the feeding ports just right, I took measurements from other feeders that work very nicely. You want the birds to stand securely on the perches and reach the seed without stretching or twisting. For goldfinches, the magic distance between the perch and the feeding port (hole in the water bottle) is 1 ¼” inches.
One other consideration is to space the perches (wooden dowels) out. Do not place one right above the other. No one, not even birds, want bird poop falling on them! You’ll see on the feeders here that the two perches are staggered, with the top one positioned in a different direction, a few inches above the lower one.
More Recycled Crafts
Birds that enjoy Nijer/Thistle Seed
This video shows a quick overview of how they are made.
Again, everything is pretty straight forward. Just be sure you get the perch and feeding port distances right, and make sure the perches are tight-fitting so your birds can feed comfortably.
If you’re wondering what the marbles are for, it’s to block off the area of the water bottle that the birds can’t access. The space below the lowest feeding port is inaccessible. To avoid seed sitting there that will go to waste, I filled it in with marbles. You could use anything (stones, etc.) so long as they are small enough to fit through the neck of the water bottle.
Supplies & Tools
- (1) Tall, narrow water bottle with lid (1 L/32 ounces). You can use other sizes but you remember to adapt the dowel/perch size accordingly.
- (2 ) 7″ Wooden dowels (¼” diameter). Each dowel should be 4″ longer than your bottle is wide. My bottle is 3″ wide + 4″ = 7″ dowel.
- (1) Funnel (metal or plastic) – check first that lid of water bottle can fit up inside spout.
- (1) 24-36″ (2-3 foot) Piece of wire for hanging the feeder (16 gauge). The length depends on where you want to hang the feeder (and it’s doubled).
- (1+ cup) Marbles or stones (must be small enough to fit into opening of water bottle).
- Spray paint (for funnel, get all-purpose with primer). I used light green, bright yellow, and orange. The finches seem to like these colours (because they match their own feathers).
- Drill and drill bits (¼” and ⅛”).
- Sharpie marker (fine tip).
- Needle-nose pliers (to twist hanging wire-you may not need to).
- Box cutter or other sharp-tipped item to start holes in plastic before drilling.
- Protective safety gloves (any time you’re cutting or drilling).
- Nyger (nijer) seed. I see it sold uysing several different spellings.
- Wild birds.
- Goo-Gone to remove label from water bottle.
- Nail polish remover and rag (to remove Sharpie marks from bottle)
- (1) metal shower curtain ring for hanging feeder from tree branch.
- Wood-burning tool to create or smooth holes in water bottle.
1. Set up your work space and assemble the tools and materials. Use safety gloves whenever cutting or drilling.
2. Remove labels from water bottle, clean, and allow to dry. Goo-Gone removes glue residue.
3. Spray paint funnel (inside and outside). Follow safety instructions on container.
4. Mark and drill holes (or use a wood-burning tool) for dowels (perches) and feeding holes but please read the next part first.
Here’s how to position everything
- You want the dowels to be placed level through the middle of the bottle as well as the right distances apart for easy access to the seed (for the birds). Also, the dowels should be staggered so that one bird is not sitting right above another when feeding.
- From top view, one dowel will be inserted at 12 and 6 o’clock. The other at 3 and 9 o’clock, three inches higher.
- It’s important that the dowels fit snugly in the holes. If the holes are too big, the dowel (perch) will wiggle around too much and make the birds nervous. Be sure your drill bit is just the size of your dowel circumference.
How to make the dowels level
- The best way to get the dowels level and centered is to drill one hole (only), thread the dowel through to the other side, then mark where that second hole should be. Next drill hole #2. Then thread the dowel all the way through.
Here’s the measurements for positioning the holes
Use your Sharpie to mark these spots.
My water bottles are 1L (32 ounce) size and measure 11 ½” tall x 3″ wide.
- The lowest dowel is 1 ½” from the bottom of the bottle.
- The feeding holes should be 1 ¼” inches above that dowel (2 ¾” from bottom of bottle). This is a comfortable distance for goldfinches to stand on the perch and reach the seed.
- Rotate the bottle 90 degrees for dowel #2 so that the birds will not be sitting one above the other.
- Dowel #2 is 4 ½” from the bottom of the bottle.
- The feeding holes start 1 ¼” above the dowel (5 ½” from the bottom of the bottle).
Drilling the Holes
- Use ¼” drill bit for dowel holes and 1/8″ drill bit for feeding holes.
- Drill first hole, use dowel to mark the spot for 2nd hole, drill second hole, and thread dowel through.
Mark the feeding hole areas (one above each perch; four total).
- Feeding holes should be ⅛” wide x ¼” tall.
- Drill the four feeding holes using ⅛” bit. You’ll need a few tiny holes in a row (vertically) to form the narrow opening.
Tip to keep drill bit steady
- It’s helpful to have an extra set of hands to hold the bottle steady while you drill.
- In the middle of your drill marks, notch the bottle using the tip of an exacto knife (use safety gloves and get help if you can’t keep the bottle steady). We want a little pilot hole to help keep the drill bit steady.
- Firmly (but not too firmly) pinch the area you will be drilling.
- Drill slowly and steady. Too much force may crack the water bottle. Careful that your drill bit does not slip and slide.
Making holes with wood-burning tool
- Alternately, you can create the dowel and feeding holes with the tip of a wood-burning tool. It takes just seconds to do. You can use the tool to melt down any sharp edges at the openings. Try a test area first on another bottle to get the feel for how it works.
You now have two dowels (perches) inserted providing 4 spots for the birds to feed, and four feeding holes.
Use nail polish remover to get rid of any leftover Sharpie marks.
5. Prepare the lid/hanging unit.
- Using a ⅛” drill bit, drill two holes through the bottle lid.
- Fold the hanging wire in half and thread the two ends up through the lid. The bend in the wire will be on the underside of the lid.
- Gently twist the wire pieces together above the lid and use pliers to curl the ends (to avoid any sharp points).
6. Pour marbles into the bottle up to the bottom of the first feeding holes. This will prevent wasted seed.
7. Fill the bottle with nyger seed. Use the funnel top to pour seed into the bottle.
8. Attach the lid.
9. Thread the lid wire through the funnel, letting the funnel sit on the lid.
10. Hang up your feeder. Metal shower curtain rings make good hangers for small tree branches.
11. Add birds.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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