Feed the Birds with a DIY Bird Feeder made from a Coconut

By 6 m read
Pilated woodpecker
Pilated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) – (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

It’s cold outside this morning. The ground is frozen and the car has frost on it. I’m drinking my coffee inside and watching my bird feeders. Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, sparrows, finches, cardinals, and three species of woodpeckers are out there, feeding on black sunflower seed, nijer seed, and suet. These little guys weigh from 0.35 oz (Red-breasted Nuthatch) to 10 oz (Pileated Woodpecker). Although they’re small, they have an enormous appetite and eat about 35% percent of their body weight every day to stay warm and energized. To put that into perspective, if you weigh 150 pounds, you’d need to eat over 50 pounds of food every single day! So, during the winter months, I lend them a little support.

White-breasted nuthatch at suet feeder
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) at suet feeder (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

How to make a DIY bird feeder from a coconut

Go to your local grocery store and find a fresh coconut for less than $2. Shake it and make sure you can hear water sloshing around inside. Buy it and bring it home. Oh, and pick up some suet from the bird food aisle on the way out.


Coconuts are like reverse IKEA furniture and come without instructions. When you look closely at a coconut, you’ll notice two things: First, on the top are three indentations, like when your hole puncher doesn’t go all the way through. Second, at about the widest part of the coconut, you’ll find a line that looks like a hairline crack. Sometimes this crack is barely or not even visible on the surface, but it’s there. These two features are our indications of where to cleanly and easily open the coconut.

Making the holes
Making the holes (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Get a hammer, a Phillips head screwdriver, and some newspaper. First, lay out the newspaper and punch out the three holes on top of the coconut with the screwdriver. Pour the coconut water into a glass (or your mouth). Absolutely delicious. Then, lay the coconut on its side and start tapping along the hairline crack with the hammer. Keep tapping while turning the coconut and increase the force of the hammer as you get more comfortable holding the coconut.

Coconut milk (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Suddenly, you’ll start seeing the hairline crack open up and the coconut will break in two. Score the white meat with a sharp knife and peel it out. Eat some yourself and put the rest in the fridge. 

Hairline crack in coconut
Hairline crack in coconut (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Grab the half of the coconut that has the three holes and thread some string through the holes. Press the suet into the half shell, hang it on a tree limb, and you’re done.


Note: To attract woodpeckers to a DIY suet feeder, find an old log with a hole in it and fill the hole with suet. Woodpeckers use their tail as an anchor while feeding and mostly avoid suet feeders that don’t offer that (except the little Downy woodpeckers).

Scoring the meat
Scoring the meat (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Once your backyard birds get used to your feeders and start hanging out, you’ll might notice that occasionally there are no birds around your feeder. If there’s not an outdoor cat making its rounds, chances are that in one of the bigger trees around your yard, a Coopers or Sharp-shinned Hawk is quietly perched, waiting for the little ones to forget about him and return to the feeders. Now the hawk’s breakfast is being served….  

Finished suet feeder (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Finished suet feeder (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Fun facts about Coconuts

  • Coconut water is a workable short-term substitute for human blood plasma and was positively tested as emergency intravenous fluid as far back as the ’50s. There’s been at least one documented case where a coconut IV was used in the Solomon Islands to treat a severely dehydrated patient. The high levels of sugar and other salts make it possible to add the water to the bloodstream, similar to how an IV solution works in modern medicine. Coconut water was known to be used during World War II in tropical areas for emergency transfusions.
  • World War I introduced the concept of large-scale gas warfare, which made gas masks a necessity for survival. Gas mask manufacturers in the US developed the use of steam-activated coconut char—obtained by burning coconut husks—as an important component in gas mask production. They found that masks using coconut carbon were superior at filtering noxious substances.
  • In tropical countries like Sumatra, farmers train monkeys to harvest their coconuts.
  • Biodiesel has been making the rounds as a fossil fuel alternative, and coconut trees happen to be one of the plants that can produce oil in workable quantities. Not only that, but coconuts can perform multiple roles: as a base substance, an additive, or a direct substitute for petroleum diesel.
  • There are more than 1,300 kinds of coconut, and they can be separated into two main genetic origins: the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. By examining the coconuts’ genetic ancestry, evolutionary biologist Kenneth Olsen and his team have been able to trace the trade routes and migratory paths of ancient human civilizations—all the way to fairly recent times.
  • The coconut comes from the coconut palm tree, which grows throughout the tropics and subtropics.
  • The name coconut is derived from 16th century Portuguese sailors who thought the 3 small holes on the coconut shell resembled the human face, so dubbed the fruit “coco” meaning grinning face, grin, or grimace. The word nut was added in English later on.
Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) – (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
  • The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) can grow up to 30 m (98 ft) tall and the leaf fronds 4–6 m (13.1–19.7 ft) long.
  • Technically, the coconut fruit is a drupe, not a nut. Typical drupes include peaches, plums, and cherries.
  • In the early stages of a coconut’s growth, it contains high levels of water, which can be consumed directly as a refreshing drink.  The water is also gaining popularity as a sports drink, as it contains good levels of sugars, dietary fiber, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Coconut milk is not the same as coconut water.  Coconut milk has a high fat content, around 17%, but is low in sugars. It is frequently added to curries and other savoury dishes.  Coconut cream can also be created from the milk.
  • Coir (the fiber of the husk) can be used for making ropes, mats, brushes, sacks, caulking for boats, and as stuffing for mattresses.
  • Coconut leaves have many uses, such as for making brooms, woven to make baskets or mats, or dried and used as thatch for roofing.
  • The white, fleshy part of the coconut seed is called coconut meat.  It has high amounts of manganese, potassium, and copper. The meat is used fresh or dried in cooking, especially in confections and desserts such as macaroons.
  • Copra is the term used for the dried meat.  This can be processed to produce coconut oil used in cooking, in soaps, cosmetics, hair-oil, and massage oil.
  • Wood from the trunk of the coconut palm was traditionally used to build bridges, houses, huts, and boats in the tropics.  The wood’s straightness, strength, and salt resistance make it a reliable building material.
  • The coconut palm is grown in over 80 countries. The top 3 coconut producing countries in 2010 were the Philippines, Indonesia, and India.
  • In Thailand and Malaysia, trained pig-tailed macaques are used to harvest coconuts.  In fact, there are still training schools for these monkeys in parts of these countries, and each year competitions are held to find the fastest harvester.
  • The coconut does not get dispersed like other drupe fruits (through consumption by wildlife). Instead, the coconut palm disperses its seed using the ocean.  A coconut is very buoyant and highly water resistant, and can travel very long distances across the ocean.
  • The Maldives have a coconut palm on the country’s national coat of arms.  It is their national tree and considered the most important plant on their islands.


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