Super Easy Bird Feeder: Seriously, You’ve Got This!

Seagulls over Puget Sound in Whidbey Island, Photo by Alex Kennedy

After the last square of toilet paper is gone, there’s no need to feel sad or anxious. I have great news: It is possible to actually extend the life of the toilet paper roll! Just turn the cardboard tube into a compostable bird feeder. I’ve actually seen this done recently at the Whidbey Island Fort Ebey State Park. On Saturday, after Nate, Alex, and I enjoyed some hiking along the beach, the Junior Rangers program was featuring a “Birds and Beaks” session. At the picnic shelter, volunteers helped children roll cardboard toilet paper tubes in peanut butter. Then, the children could roll those tubes in sunflower seeds to make bird feeders. If children were allergic to peanut butter, another nut butter alternative was provided. The idea was so ingenious that I just had to try it myself.

Actually, the idea of the compostable bird feeder is not necessarily “new.” Pinterest abounds with ideas that include orange shell “cups” for the birdseed, pinecones, and other natural materials. In fact, an interest in feeding birds in North America has a long history. According to Herb Wilson, professor of biology at Colby College, bird feeding started with Henry David Thoreau,who placed half a bushel of unripe corn outside his cabin to attract various animals and observe them. Blue Jays and Black-capped Chickadees came to visit, according to his writings. In subsequent years, according to Wilson, various teachers took on efforts to feed birds and to educate the public. Florence Merriam Bayley, for instance, gathered bones for suet, grains, and crumbs, which she could nail to a tree to attract birds. Wilson also tells us about Professor Anna Botsford Comstock, who started a Nature Study program for children. Table feeders were then introduced at the end of the 19th century and the National Audubon Society encouraged feeding birds. In 1910, as Wilson recounts, Hans Berlepsch introduced the bell bird feeder. Eventually, commercial bird feeders came about in the 1920s.

Photo of Puget Sound waves from on top of a grassy bluff.  Photo by Cecilia Kennedy.

“Do we have to do this now?” Nate asked as we approached the picnic shelter area.   The day’s hike had left us hungry and our stomachs were growling. We were heading to nearby Langley to catch lunch at a Latin American restaurant before it closed.

“No, I think I can figure out the steps so that I can make one at home later.”

“Why do we need a bird feeder?”

“To entertain the cat!” I replied.

Ever since we moved to our new home in Washington, the cat has been incredibly bored. We have not put out birdseed, so he has suffered without his “live bird television” programming. That is all about to change. Making the compostable bird feeder is extremely easy, as can be seen in the following YouTube video by Survival and Stuff. 

(The music in the background of this video is surprisingly seductive and sultry. I can imagine birds watching this video and drooling uncontrollably.)

The video above indicates that the compostable bird feeder is “free.” However, I paid $2.99 for wild birdseed and $1.49 for a jar of peanut butter. That $4.48 will go extremely far though because I only need a few teaspoons of peanut butter and about a ¼ cup of birdseed to make just one feeder. Imagine how many feeders I could make if I used the whole jar of peanut butter and the entire bag of birdseed!


1 cardboard tube from either a paper towel or toilet paper roll

wild birdseed

peanut or any other nut butter

waxed paper



1) Make sure all bits of paper are removed from the cardboard tube.

2) Spread the peanut butter onto the outside of the cardboard tube.

3) Place the seeds onto waxed paper and roll the peanut-butter covered tube in the seeds.

Photo demonstrating spreading peanut butter onto the cardboard tube. Bird seed is placed onto the waxed paper. Photo by Alex Kennedy

Finally, it’s customary to hang these feeders from a tree, but there are no trees in our backyard, yet. So, I just put mine on a plate outside. We do have a place on our front porch where we could hang the feeder, but Nate didn’t think it would look very “aesthetic” hanging there for all the neighbors to see. After all, it is a USED toilet paper tube covered in peanut butter and wild birdseed.

Finished bird feeder, placed outside on a back and white plate. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

So for now, it sits on a plate in the backyard. We are waiting for birds. So is our cat.

SeaTac the cat looking outside the window.  Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

Your Turn: Have you ever made a bird feeder? Have you ever fed an animal at the zoo or in a park? What are your favorite memories from Nature or interactions with animals? Share and discuss!




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