Dec 7, 2015 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2015

Holiday Tree for the Birds

An American tree sparrow enjoys Wendy's crafty Christmas tree.
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Although northern Ohio winters can be quite long and dreary, one of the highlights for me is my backyard bird feeding station. Winter birds with their colorful, cheerful presence can brighten even the most gray, snowy day. Last winter I tried something new with my backyard feeding station that was a big hit with my birds, and increased my bird-watching enjoyment by leaps and bounds.

I have always enjoyed holiday decorating, but I now live in a small condo that doesn't allow much room for a holiday tree. Rather than over stuff my tiny condo with a tree, I thought it might be better to place a holiday evergreen outside on my deck where I could see it and enjoy it throughout the season. However, I wasn't sure how the birds that regularly visit my feeders would respond to a holiday tree invading their familiar feeding area. Then I thought, why not make the holiday tree one that the birds can enjoy too! So, this is what I did.

I set my tree on the deck in a sturdy tree stand and anchored it securely. Next, I added several strings of outdoor, all-weather lights. I purchased 20 teacups at a local thrift store for about $.25 each, and I filled them with several kinds of birdseed. I attached the cups to the tree branches with craft wire, and positioned each one on the tree so that it would be easily accessible for the birds, and easy for me to refill each day.

Last year was unusual because we did not have any snow in northern Ohio until mid-January, so we experienced a very "green" and rainy holiday season. But even in the warm temperatures, the birds came, and eventually the snow arrived as well. The birds loved their new holiday feeder tree, and enjoyed feeding there from December through March, when I finally took it down.

A alternative idea: Move your holiday tree outside after the holidays are over and recycle it as a winter feeder tree! As you take down your holiday decorations, remove the ornaments from your tree and move the tree (with outdoor- safe lights) someplace outside. Then add the cups with seed, and you've got a nice, new feeder station for your winter birds! You could also create a feeder tree using an evergreen already growing in your yard, especially if there is a tree near a window where you can enjoy watching the birds from inside your house. You could also add other "seed" type ornaments to your feeder tree, and there are many great ideas online for creating ornaments out of birdseed.

I hope you will consider adding a holiday feeder tree to your backyard feeder station this winter. You can certainly expand on this simple idea. Please email photos of your feeder tree to Watching Backyard Birds at [email protected] so we can share your ideas with our readers in the December 2016 issue!

About Wendy Clark

Wendy Clark is Advertising Sales Director and Event Planner for Bird Watcher's Digest and Watching Backyard Birds. She lives in Marblehead, Ohio.

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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018