If decorating a Christmas tree for the birds sounds like fun, there are a few important things to remember.
The most important element as far as the birds are concerned is that it be decorated with food. Variety isn’t important but quality is.
Use the best birdseed mix you can find. This cuts down on the messy part of this project. Every year, stores carry a variety of Christmas-type birdseed creations but always look at the ingredients. Avoid fillers like the red milo, cracked corn and wheat.
Birdseed works very well as a decoration and it is simple to place on the tree. Just scatter it along the tops of the branches. It collects among the needles and gives an effect much like snow.
A large part of the seed mix should be the small, black sunflower seeds. They aren’t very decorative but they are a favorite food for Northwest birds.
A popular project in the grade schools during the Christmas season is the creation of simple bird feeders. A large pinecone like those from the Ponderosa pines is perfect. These are also used on the wreaths we buy for the front door and they’re available in craft stores.
When these cones are stuffed with peanut butter or a “bird pudding” mixture, the birds can’t resist them. A simple pudding mixture can be made of lard and rolled oats. It’s nutritious and the consistency is perfect. It doesn’t turn rock-hard in freezing weather the way suet-based products often do.
Melt 2 pounds of lard on low in an electric frying pan. Add at least 2 quarts of rolled oats. They make a better mix if ground fine in a food processor but that isn’t necessary.
After the lard has melted, add the oats and stir until they are saturated with the lard. Cool until this mixture sets up. Then it can be stuffed into the pinecones that will be attached to several of the bird tree’s branches.
Red is the favorite Christmas color and it adds a finishing touch to a tree for the birds. Holly berries work well.
Branches with berries on them should be cut into short lengths, with each piece having some red berries. These are easily tucked among the Christmas tree’s branches.
When holly is difficult to find, some simple bows of red ribbon or red yard also work well for adding a red touch to the tree. They can even be used to hang the stuffed cones on the tree.
The type of tree used in this project can be a fresh one or an artificial one. Where it will be placed is very important. You want to be able to see and enjoy it, so the closer to the house, the better.
Keeping it dry is important if you use an artificial tree. Fresh trees don’t go limp when it pours down rain. The birds appreciate it if this tree is near other trees or structures they can perch on before exploring the inviting branches.
After you have decorated the tree, the best is yet to come because the birds will finish the job. Once the food is discovered, there will be ornaments coming to life all over your tree.
Juncos will flood the branches looking for the birdseed. Chickadees and nuthatches will cling to the food-filled pinecones. Sparrows and towhees will be on and under the tree, searching for what falls from the branches.
Now, the tree is complete. The birds have arrived.