Fun Activity: Edible Bird Decorations for Fall and Winter

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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


Peanut butter

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.

Orange Bowl


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

Small sticks

Twine or rope



Here’s a quick tutorial on this cute feeder with perches too!


  1. Cut the pumpkin in half.
  2. Scoop out the seeds, leaving a hollow inside with 1/2-inch thick shell wall.
  3. Insert two sticks across the open pumpkin to create perches for the birds.
  4. 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.
  5. Fill with birdseed.


*Compiled by Julie Horney MS, OTR/L, Advanced Master Gardener.  References available upon request.



Christmas with an Illness or Disability

This won’t be your typical article about how to cope at Christmastime when living with an illness or disability.  This includes recovery from a serious condition such as recovery from cancer or chronic Lyme disease.  Most of those writers tell you to do this or that instead of your cherished traditions.  What if “doing stuff” is the problem?  No, I am not going to do that!

Hi there.  Today I am writing directly to the person whose ability to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and New Year’s has changed.  If you are a caregiver or healthcare professional, feel free to share this with the one entrusted to your care.  Some of these points will apply to anyone feeling stressed over the holiday season.  Most importantly I hope my words strike a cord with the patient, the daughter, the son, the wife, the husband, the mother, the father who cannot do things as he or she once did.  How do I know?  I am “disabled.”  While I like to say that I am on an extended medical leave from my profession of occupational therapy,  more accurately I have been off from work for nearly 5 years with no end in sight.  That’s a lot of Christmases!  So here is what I do:

First and foremost, simply be.  Nothing is more important right now.  November and  December are wonderful times to live simply as you are, marveling at the change from Fall to Winter, the pretty decorations, the meaningful music, the birth of Christ,  and memories of the myriad people/places/and things in days gone by that make you smile.

I am not necessarily referring to things you might DO here.  If you can pull out some pictures or a decoration for your kitchen table (next to your favorite chair?) then by all means go for it.  For the rest of us we will enjoy the public displays when out and about, the extra glam on websites as we surf the net, or maybe display a Christmas card or two more prominently when they come in the mail than we might have done so in the past.  How easy is that?  Here in the northern United States we have snow already which brings on that holiday feeling all by itself.  All I have to do is open the drapes for a Wintry display of wonder!  Playing music or reminiscing are incredibly easy as well, even if a loved one must pop the CD in the player for you.  Done!

     Second, let someone important to you know that you care about them, your needs, things for which you are grateful, that you are thinking of them (praying for them?), your Christmas greetings, etc., as appropriate.  Short gestures of communication, especially shared in-person or with your own voice, are often way more meaningful than 90 pre-printed Christmas cards sent from your dog-eared address book!  Most everyone does that.  How many folks pick up the phone just to connect these days?   If you are just not up to it, how about adding a personal note inside one of those free e-cards online?  My personal favorite is DaySpring.

Third, if there is something you *must DO* then make the most of it.  Find a little something special that you can pursue for yourself that has symbolic or real meaning to you at this time of year.  Celebrate it a little more than it might warrant any other time of the year.  It’s really a matter of perspective.  This gesture could be alone or with a loved one:  you decide based upon your resources.  For me this might include just changing my profile picture on Facebook to a Snoopy’s Christmas cartoon as it makes me grin every time I look at it.  For others it might include adding a tiny dark chocolate bar to the grocery list and taking it home in your pocket instead of the family grocery bag.  Others may be able to do something more active like driving home through a new neighborhood one night after an appointment to discover new Christmas light displays.  This is really a small thingy with BIG IMPACT.

Now that I have warmed up this topic, perhaps other new meditations, prayer times, worship, celebrations or traditions will come to mind.  It just has to be meaningful enough to you to replace what is on hold right now.  And hey, what if you land on something new that you will look forward to next year?  Now that’s a wonderful thought to carry you through the new year for sure.  Merry Christmas and happy new year to you!