It's getting to be that time of year when our fine feathered friends need a little extra sustenance. Here in Brooklyn, I get pretty excited about being able to attract local wildlife to my yard and having rare sightings of "exotic" birds like cardinals among all the pigeons and sparrows. Depending on where you live, you might be surprised at the variety of birds who'll visit you once you put a feeder out. Here's an easy way to do that and keep a few beverage containers out of the garbage at the same time. You might have even done this project in elementary school art class!
Plastic bottles make excellent bird feeders. Birds like to be able to see their surroundings, so clear containers are appealing feeding stations. Soda bottles are easy to cut up with scissors, and I found that a cheap serrated kitchen knife is the easiest way to make holes in heavier plastic, like large juice bottles.
Use a permanent marker to mark out your feeding hole(s)- I just cut big "windows" close to the bottom of the containers but you could also add smaller holes up and down the length of the bottle, like this tube bird feeder. Just be sure to add a perch anywhere the birds will need to sit. Used wooden BBQ skewers and chopsticks make great perches and the plastic is really easy to drill through. You can add extra perches - the birds like to hang out around the feeder while they're waiting for others to finish eating. Finally, insert a skewer near the top and tie some ribbon or yarn to each end for hanging.
These simple plastic feeders might not be the prettiest, but the birds don't seem to care, and they tend to blend in with winter scenery anyway. You could also dress them up by choosing a series of matching bottles or playing with color-coordination: painting the perches and bottlecaps a bright color to match.
Milk cartons are even easier to work with, and a great project for kids. I dressed mine up with some contact paper (the waxed milk carton will probably hold up in the elements OK, but a little extra protection can't hurt, and it looks nicer).
It's a fun, basically free fall project - and with a little extra care and creativity, might even make a nice holiday gift for the bird lover on your list.