Create an Edible Christmas Tree for the Birds
It’s easy and fun to include our backyard bird friends in the holiday festivities by creating a tree full of special treats just for them. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does take a small commitment of time. This would be a great family activity. You might even start a new family tradition, while making your winter backyard bird gang very happy!
Choosing a tree that is near other shrubs or trees will give the birds an escape route, as well as a place to perch while eating their holiday treats. If you decide to use orange and/or grapefruit halves, the weather should be relatively cool (under 40 degrees) so that the fruit cups will not mold before the contents are eaten.
What You Will Need
A tree that is near other shrubs or trees
22 gauge wire (Hobby or Craft store) and needle nose pliers/wire cutters
Small nail for making holes
Small aluminum dishes approx. 4-½” diameter
Larger aluminum pie plate for rolling pinecones
Dried cranberries, apples, apricots, raisins or other dried fruit
Oranges and grapefruits cut in half
Whole peanuts in the shell, either salted or unsalted
Shelled peanuts, either salted or unsalted
Dried pinecones (directions under Pinecone Section)
Peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
Sunflower bird seed
Red yarn for securing dishes, fruit cups and pinecones to branches
Scissors to cut yarn
Make the Aluminum "Baskets"
Begin by using the wire cutters to cut the wire into pieces approx. 10“ long for the pinecones and fruit cups, and 12“ long for the small aluminum pans. With the nail, pierce a hole in one side of a small aluminum pan about ½” below the rim. Then make another hole directly across from the first one. Since it may take several days for your edible tree to be discovered, it is a good idea to make 3 or 4 drainage holes in the bottom of the pan with the small nail. That way any rain or snow will not spoil the contents!
Push one end of the 12” long wire through the hole from the inside to the outside of the dish, leaving enough wire to twist several times in order to secure one side of the handle. Repeat with the other side using the needle nose pliers to bend each wire end downward. This ensures neither the birds nor you will be harmed by the sharp wire end. Fill each little pan with an assortment of dried fruit, popcorn, peanuts and sunflower seeds. Be careful not to fill it too full or it will tip and spill when it is hung on your tree. Tie yarn to the handle so that it can be secured to a tree branch when you are ready to hang your ornaments.
Making the Fruit "Baskets"
Next, scoop out the orange and grapefruit halves. It’s okay if you leave some of the fruit inside. Save the scooped out fruit and refrigerate. You can use it for a fruit salad of your own! Use the end of the 10” wire to pierce the fruit half on either side. Pull the wire through the hole on one side of the fruit half to make a handle, just as you did with the small aluminum dishes. Don’t forget to make 2 or 3 holes in the bottom of the fruit cup for drainage.
Now make a mixture of peanut butter, raisins and birdseed, and fill the fruit halves. Cut a length of red yarn and tie to the handle of the basket. You will use this to secure your treat dishes to the tree branches. Hang these individual fruit “baskets” on different tree branches for the birds to enjoy.
To dry pinecones: lay pinecones out in a single layer on several thicknesses of newspaper; let air dry naturally for 3 or 4 days. This should dry the sap, making it easier to work with the pine cones.
Wrap a 10” piece of wire around and under the top layer of pine cone scales leaving a long enough piece to make a loop for hanging. Twist the wire together and bend the ends over so they will not hurt you or the birds. Then lay out a piece of waxed paper on a flat work surface. Pour birdseed into a shallow aluminum dish and set it on the waxed paper. Spread peanut butter onto a pinecone with a spatula working over the waxed paper to catch any dollops that might fall off.
Next, roll the peanut butter pinecone in the birdseed, gently shaking off the excess. Cut a length of yarn and tie it around the top of the wire handle. You will use this to secure the ornaments to the tree when you are ready to hang them.
What you will need for Pinecone ornament
If you wish, you can add raisins, craisins or dried cranberries to the bird seed for the pine cones. Or you can pierce the dried fruit pieces with wire to hang individually, or to make garlands or wreaths. Use your imagination and see if you can create different edible ornaments to hang on your holiday bird tree!
A tree full of treats like this will attract birds like chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals and juncos. This is a fun and easy way to get kids involved in learning about feeding and identifying birds. They can note which ones show up at their tree, as well as what they prefer to eat.
Be Patient! Birds are naturally curious, especially chickadees. It may take several days or more, but ‘if you build it, they will come!‘ By the way, if you can choose a tree that is easily seen from within your house, you will have a ringside seat to a holiday show courtesy of You and Mother Nature!