Decorate a Tree for Birds

Decorate a Tree for Birds

As cold winter weather arrives in full force, food sources can become scarce for wild birds. You can make providing supplemental food a fun family activity by decorating a tree for birds in your yard.

Decorating a tree for birds can be as simple or involved as you like. To start, pick a tree (or large bush) in your yard that has good places for birds to perch and to hang food from. Of course it’s nice if the tree’s location can be easily viewed from your home.

We actually repurpose our Christmas tree for this each year. After we take the tree down, we find the perfect spot in our yard, put a tall stake in the ground, and securely tie the tree up.

Once you’ve figured out your tree, you just need to decide what decorations you’d like to put on it.

Our favorite is the old standby of pine cones spread with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. They’re easy enough for young kids to help with and the birds always seems to enjoy them. If you’ve never made them before, here is a simple guide.

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

What you’ll need:

  • Largish, open pine cones
  • Thin twine, cut into 12-inch lengths
  • Peanut butter
  • Birdseed

What to do:

  1. Tie a piece of twine around the top of your pinecone and pull it tight under the scales. (Depending on the type of pinecone you’re using and the direction of the scales, you may need to tie the twine around the bottom instead.) Tie the two loose ends of the twine together to make a loop for hanging.
  2. Place the birdseed into a shallow bowl. Scoop some peanut butter into another bowl. You may want to place everything on a baking sheet or wax paper to help keep your work surface clean.
  3. Spread a layer of peanut butter over the pinecone, filling in the spaces between the scales as much as possible.
  4. Dip and roll the pinecone in the birdseed, pressing lightly if needed to help it stick.

More great decoration options:

  • Pieces of fresh or dried fruit. We like to use orange slices, but I’ve seen grapes, apples, and other fruits used as well.
  • Sprays of millet or dried sunflower heads.
  • Unsalted in-shell peanuts. We string a bunch together to make a little garland.
  • Plain popcorn. This also makes a nice garland, especially with some cranberries mixed in for a little color.

Some other tips:

  • Use natural fibers like jute to hang or string your decorations. Don’t use fishing line, thin thread, or anything else that wildlife could potentially get tangled in.
  • Only put out enough fresh food for a day or two to avoid any spoilage.
  • It can take a little bit for birds to find your tree, so you may not have any visitors for the first few days.
  • Consider providing a source of clean, unfrozen water (which can be hard for birds to find in the winter) along with your tree.

Don’t be surprised if your tree attracts other wildlife. We always have several squirrels join in the fun, so we make sure to put out enough for everyone to share.

If you’re interested in providing a more traditional food source for birds this winter, check out these tips.