Feeding our feathered friends is a fun thing to do! It’s easy too!
Evergreen trees and bushes, the ones that don’t drop their leaves in the Fall, provide shelter and winter feeding for local birds. Use these ideas to put together some edible decorations in time for Christmas and the colder months here in the northern states.
Quick DO’s and DON’TS:
- Don’t use bread or baked goods; they provide no nutritional value and is the equivalent of “junk food” for birds. Moldy bread can also cause infections and disease.
- Don’t use sugary, salty, or dried fruits and foods.
- Do use fresh fruits, raw unsalted nuts, & seeds.
Simple, Homemade Bird Feeders
Pine cone Treat
Peanut butter or shortening (beef suet, lard or non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening)
Small screw eye and/or yarn
If pine cones are closed, put them on a cookie sheet in a low oven (300°) for 20-30 minutes until the heat opens them.
For hanging, insert screw eye into the flat end of a pine cone or simply wrap a loop of yarn around the cone. Cover the cone with peanut butter (pb) or shortening. Use a plastic knife to spread pb deep within the scales. Roll the cone in birdseed; to get it within the pine cone.
Peanut Butter and Millet Roll
Millet seed or assorted birdseed
Toilet paper tube
Thread yarn through the cardboard tube. Tie the ends of the yarn together to make a hanging loop. Spread peanut butter over the tube and roll in millet (bird) seed. This is attractive to finches, many sparrow species, and chickadees.
Oranges with a thick rind
Knife and metal spoon
Skewer or awl
3 pieces of twine for each bowl, cut into 24 inch lengths
With a sharp knife, cut the orange in half; scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Using a skewer, pierce three holes around the cup of the rind, approximately 1/2” from the cut edge. The holes should be evenly spaced around the rind’s circumference. Thread a string through each hold, tying a knot inside the orange to hold the string in place.
Knot the strings together at the top to create a hanging loop, keeping all 3 strings the same length to support the orange and keep it level. If you want to tie the feeder directly to a tree branch, keep the strings untied until you hang the feeder. Repeat with the other half and remaining oranges. Fill with birdseed.
According to the Audubon Society, these orange seed cups entice chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and purple and house finches.
String garlands of unsalted popped popcorn, cranberries, unsalted peanuts still in the shell, apple slices, and orange segments to attract titmice, jays, and mockingbirds. When using apples and oranges, make sure the pieces are nice and chunky!
Idea: use thin cotton string or 100% cotton thread that are biodegradable and that the birds may use to build their nests in the Spring!
Another idea: wrap-and-tie unsalted peanuts still in their shells along a long piece of cotton string to make a garland. This can be easier for little or energetic hands that might not want to handle needles!
Millet seed stalks twisted into the shape of wreaths lure goldfinches and pine siskins.
Raffia and Twine Bows
Since genuine raffia (not plastic) and twine are derived from natural materials, they work great simply tied around tree bows for a decorative accent. The birds may even use these for their nests in the Spring as well.
Pumpkin Bird Feeder
Small to medium sized pumpkin, up to 10 pounds
Twine or rope
Here’s a quick tutorial on this cute feeder with perches too!
- Cut the pumpkin in half.
- Scoop out the seeds, leaving a hollow inside with 1/2-inch thick shell wall.
- Insert two sticks across the open pumpkin to create perches for the birds.
- Knot two lengths of rope together at the center and tack the knot to the bottom of the pumpkin feeder. Hang the other ends of the rope in your chosen feeder location.
- Fill with birdseed.
*Compiled by Julie Horney MS, OTR/L, Advanced Master Gardener. References available upon request.
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