How To Create An Outdoor Christmas Tree To Attract Birds This Season

For many families, the Christmas tree is the most important decoration for the holiday season. As much as we love a beautifully decorated tree, there's always the nagging question in the back of our mind regarding how to dispose of it once Christmas is over. There are a number of eco-friendly ways to discard your live tree, from recycling it to creating mulch. But one of our favorite ideas is to turn it into a practical and useful focal point in your yard by creating a wildlife sanctuary — decorate the branches with the seeds, fruit, and other treats birds love to eat.

If you live in a place where winter means cold, snowy weather, you can offer birds and small animals a place to hunker down out of the wind. You might even want to draw them to your tree with the natural foods they adore. When the temperature drops, birds need to burn extra calories to maintain a healthy body temperature, so offering high-fat suet cakes or anything with peanut butter is going to bring feathered friends right to your former holiday decoration.

Repurposing for wildlife

In a way, you're decorating the Christmas tree all over again, but this time with the intent of helping to feed birds during the time of year when food can be scarce. First remove all hooks, ornaments, lights, and tinsel.  Secure your tree in case of high winds, and place it where you can watch visitors enjoying the snacks you've offered. Then decorate with edible goodies. We love many of the ideas offered by YouTube videos that demonstrate how to make homemade snacks for birds with just a few basic ingredients. Even if you aren't particularly crafty, there are plenty of resources to obtain store-bought bags of finch food or suet cakes, and these can be hung on your tree, or near your regular bird feeder. 

Everything from garlands of popcorn to slices of oranges or apples and strings of grapes or cranberries can be placed on the tree. You can also make a bracelet of crackers. But be sure your popcorn or crackers have no salt, as salt is toxic to birds. To make a garland, just use a sturdy needle and thread or fishing line to string popcorn or fruit. If you have some pinecones, smear lard or peanut butter mixed with oatmeal on them, then roll them in birdseed and hang them on your tree. Many commercial peanut butter brands have additives, including salt, so use all-natural products when making feed for the birds.

Extend the life of your tree

Since some birds are ground feeders and others feed in trees, it is a good idea to offer a variety of foods for birds and to place them at different levels. Spreading the treats around helps prevent over-crowding too. If you have house pets with access to the outdoors, place the treats higher up so the birds and other wild animals get the benefit, not your furry friends.

Once the tree dries out, you can give it one more purpose, and that's to help shelter wildlife. Create a brush pile (safe from house pets) so animals like rabbits, skunks, foxes, and squirrels can use it for a nesting area. Brush piles should be 5 feet high and about 12 to 15 feet around, so you may want to ask your neighbors for their old Christmas trees as well to create an ideal space. If you have a pond or stream on your property, submerged pine trees help build a habitat for fish, frogs, and aquatic insects.