As we’ve talked about in recent articles, our fine feathered outdoor friends don’t have as many food options this time of year due to the dropping temperatures.
With this in mind, talk to your customers about different ways they can supply food to the birds around their landscape. One popular and creative method many use is to decorate an outdoor Christmas tree with tasty treats the birds are sure to love.
Remind customers to keep in mind that when we say ‘decorate’ the tree, we don’t mean with tinsel, lights and stars; we mean sticking with edible items that will actually help feed the critters, not harm them.
Choosing a tree
When creating an outdoor edible tree for birds, remind your customers that they don’t necessarily have to have a traditional Christmas tree to decorate. Any tree will work, and even shrubs can have the desired effect.
Birds really won’t be picky when it comes to what kind of tree or bush their treats come on, so tell your customers to get creative. Encourage them to pick one that does have plenty of horizontal branches that are widely spaced out. This will keep the ornaments and other decorations from getting overcrowded, and it will allow the birds enough space to eat.
An evergreen tree will also give the birds shelter and will keep the ornaments safe in the event of snow arriving. However, it may reduce the amount of space birds have to perch on while they feed, and it could cut down on their access to the food.
If your customers are wanting to use their decorated tree as an opportunity to bird watch, remind them to choose a tree that is visible from their home, whether this be the porch or a window. Also, if they’ve noticed a particular tree in their landscape that drew birds earlier in the season, that could be the perfect tree to decorate since the birds are drawn to it already.
There are so many options when it comes to decorating the tree, and no two will look alike. Some of the most popular options are pine cone feeders covered in peanut butter and bird seeds. These are easy for small children to construct, and they give the birds the added nutrition of the peanut butter.
Another idea is to make suet cakes. Suet is a popular treat for backyard birds, and there are numerous types and shapes that can be made. For more information on different suet types and flavors, click here.
Constructing simple garlands of cranberries or popcorn and ornaments made of dried fruit can not only be helpful to the wildlife, it can also act as a family bonding activity and be an eye-catching addition to your client’s yard.
By adding in dried fruit ornaments, the birds will receive the vitamins and minerals they crave and need for winter. Tell your customers to keep a wide variety of organic fruits on the tree, such as apples, figs, kiwi slices, citrus slices, starfruit, pears and pineapples. Using organic fruit is important, as the pesticide residue on conventional fruits could be harmful to the birds.
For more information on what not to feed the birds, click here.
When choosing what to hang these decorations with, advise your clients to use small lengths of string – maybe in red and green to keep with the Christmas spirit – or natural twine. The birds could use these to help insulate their roosting areas, or they may use it for nesting material. Be sure clients avoid using thin threads or fishing line, as this can become a tangle hazard.
Other tips to keep in mind
If your clients are going to make an edible tree, be sure to remind them that the sooner they do it, the better. If your customers decorate the tree early, it will give birds more opportunity to enjoy the (literal) fruits of their labor. It can also sometimes take a few weeks for birds to begin flocking to the trees, so this gives them time to acclimate to it before the weather gets harsh.
If customers are going to hang treat ornaments, remind them to make extra. Once birds catch on to the fact that there are tasty treats around, those suckers will go fast. Having an ample supply of extras on hand will keep the birds coming and well fed for the season.