A fun family project during the holiday season is to decorate an outside Christmas tree for the birds. This is a custom dating back to the sixteenth century in northern Europe, where people honored the birds and beasts of the Nativity.

Use a living tree, preferably a conifer, near the house, and viewable through a window, so that the birds can be watched from inside as they enjoy the goodies.

Decorations depend on the creativity of the decorators. My bird Christmas tree is usually decorated with peanuts (in the shell), chunks of suet, popcorn, marshmallows, doughnuts, chunks of fruit, and cranberries. These are threaded on a string with a large needle, and draped on the tree like garland.

Other decorations may include individual items hung from the boughs of the tree like ornaments, such as bird cupcakes made of rendered beef suet, bird seeds, corn meal and peanut butter. Others may be cups of dried fruit, such as raisins and cranberries or nuts. A doughnut or pine cone dipped in rendered suet, and then covered with birdseed, and hung from a red bow, makes an attractive decoration. Red or yellow apples, hung on a bough from their stems by a red bow, form colorful Christmas tree balls.

Expect a variety of birds to come to your holiday feast, including woodpeckers for the suet, finches for the seeds, jays for the nuts, and waxwings and mockingbirds for the berries.

by George H. Harrison
eNature’s Birding expert