Rubbish Science Plastic Bottle Bird Feeder Project

Before you start feeding birds it is important to know what to feed them, when to and how to. The RSPB provides excellent information here 

The aim of this Rubbish Science investigation is to optimise the design of a bird feeder made from a plastic bottle. This could be focussed on specific bird species and foods. This would work really well as a collaborative project or something like Citizen Science. The full worksheet and notes will be available soon on our TES page. As usual, it follows the claim – evidence for the claim – confidence in the claim format.

My claim for this investigation was that the birds would be attracted to a bigger feeder than a smaller one. I wasn’t very confident of this claim but my thinking was that the birds would find a larger amount of food more attractive than a smaller amount. 

I used the same design for both plastic bottle feeders with peanuts in both. It almost certainly isn’t the best design, but I wanted to create something very simple to carry out this investigation. To find the which the birds preferred I simply weighed them both before hanging them in a similar position.   The feeder that had lost the most weight would be the one the birds preferred.

There was only an opening on one side and this caused a lot of confusion to the birds and some sat for some time trying to work out how to get the food.  Some sat on the opposite side to the pecking haplessly at the nuts through the plastic. Some even flipped upside down to do so.  One of the most valuable things about this type of investigation is what you can learn about bird behaviour and the questions raised whilst trying to solve this simple one. 

The blue tits were the first to access the feeder

Was it the same bird returning or had several learned it? How far do these birds travel in a day?

A Coal Tit turned up and got the nuts straight away. 

Are they smarter than the Blue and Great tits or lucky or just a particularly clever individual?

They appeared to be sitting considering the problem, did they learn from each other? They certainly seemed to be gaining courage from each other. 

What patterns of behaviour were being shown?

Others simply flew at the food and pecked the containers did they learn from this?

The results over the course of a single day showed that more food went from the smaller bottle. This didn’t support my claim and needs to be investigated further. This was all the more surprising as the smaller bottle span far faster than the bigger one when the bird landed on the perch. They didn’t seem to like this and flew off. Birds were more likely to get a nut if they first perched on the surround as this led to a slower rotation than trying to land directly from a flight – Although that super brainy Coal Tit seemed to manage that fine!

Extending this investigation would allow us to possibly find the best design, size, colour, food, position etc for anty particular species of bird. This would be a very valuable thing to learn. Even if we didn’t crack that problem there were so many other interesting questions that were thrown up that would imcrease the interest in birds  

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