With the cold weather quickly approaching, it’s time to begin thinking about fun winter activities. And what better activity is there than helping out our feathered friends?
While many birds fly to warmer climates for the winter months, some continue to thrive throughout the Minnesota winters. Making edible outdoor tree decorations is a fun and easy way to give these birds some extra nourishment.
The Rochester area is home to many winter birds, including cardinals, chickadees, finches, blue jays, nuthatches, woodpeckers, sparrows, starlings and juncos.
To keep warm throughout the season, these birds rely on shelter provided by trees and especially on their diet. As Randy from Wild Birds Unlimited explains, a diet with a high-fat content “is very important to the birds as it gets colder and they have to burn off more energy to stay warm.”
Randy recommends, “a good seed blend that would typically contain black oil sunflower, safflower, sunflower chips, millet and peanuts.” To feed the largest variety of birds, the black oil sunflower is the best choice. However, if you’re looking for a seed with the largest fat content, suet is a more popular choice. Woodpeckers and nuthatches especially love suet.
These are the essential ingredients for making winter tree decorations. A classic project is covering pinecones in peanut butter, rolling them in a variety of seeds and stringing them from tree branches.
Birdseed ornaments are also simple to assemble and can be made out of a mixture of water, flour, corn syrup, unflavored gelatin and birdseed. Exact recipes for ornaments are easy to find online. After combining the ingredients, press the mixture into cookie cutters so they will set into the shapes. Add a hole at the top of each shape for easy hanging.
Strings of fruits, including apples, pears and orange chunks, can also be used as decorative food options although birds in colder climates like ours often prefer and need a diet comprised of things like nuts and suet. Orange cups can be an excellent compromise. Cut oranges in half, scrape out the fruit and fill them with seeds or suet cakes.
Keep in mind what you use to hang each of these tasty treats. Use small lengths of cotton string or natural twine. These are safe for birds and not harmful to the environment. The birds may also choose to use these strings to pad their nests.
Tree decorations will keep the local birds happy and healthy and you’ll have fun doing it, too!
Lauren Nielsen, a Rochester-based magazine editor and freelance writer, is a frequent Radish contributor.