Friday, January 05, 2007

Deck the trees with strings of berries!

After reading the article Decorate Your Tree with Wildlife Ornaments, I was inspired to have some fun with the two Christmas trees we’ve planted in the yard. I spent a quiet day in December stringing fresh cranberries with fresh-popped popcorn. I painted bagels and pinecones (from the Eastern white pines) with peanut butter, and sprinkled them with wild birdseed (black oil sunflower seeds and a wild birdseed mix).

Once I had a big box filled with goodies, I carefully decorated the Blue spruce and the Oriental spruce in the waning afternoon sun. As I took pictures of my crafts, I drooled at the thought of how cool it was going to be to take pictures the next morning of the birds having breakfast in the Christmas trees!

What I found the next morning was nothing short of hilarious. The trees had been completely stripped of their treasures, with a few dejected strings left hanging on the boughs. A lone pinecone, picked clean of seeds, still clung to a low branch. The hemp twine used to suspend the bagel halves were draped limply around the tree tops.

Alas, no birds were merrily dining on a gourmet breakfast. My guess is that somewhere, a raccoon family was sleeping off a very good night!
EDIT, FOR THE BIRDS: Trailhead asked about feeding peanut butter to birds in the comments, and I realized that others might be curious too. So here’s a little more information on feeding peanut butter to birds:

Trailhead, I too was uncertain about the peanut butter. I struggled with the “everybody does it” theory. (I also meant to note that after putting out all the treats, I added a large, clean dog food dish filled to the brim with fresh water beneath the tree closest to the thicket).

With regards to the peanut butter, perhaps this will help:

Source: 101 Ways to Help Birds by Laura Erickson
© 2006 Stackpole Books

Chapter 12: Bird Food Recommendations, page. 148

No. 47: Offer peanut butter and nuts

Peanut butter is nutritious and has a high energy content, so it is often a component of bluebird mixes. The easiest way to offer it is smeared into the crevices of tree bark or stuffed into the holes of hanging log feeders. […] In his book A Complete Guide to Bird Feeding, John V. Dennis reports cases of birds choking on peanut butter. Because of its sticky texture, it can gum up their mouths, so mix peanut butter with a generous amount of cornmeal to make it grittier.”

There are lots more ideas available in Erickson’s 101 Ways to Help Birds - I highly recommend it! I first learned about her book through a review at Bootstrap Analysis: book review: 101 ways to help birds.
For all you birdlovers who want more, more, MORE, Laura Erickson also keeps a blog called the Birder Blog.


  1. Either that, or your birds are channeling Henry VIII.

    I love these. I wanted to do something similar for gifts this year, but I read that peanut butter is not an ideal ingredient, as birds have no salivary glands. But here's the thing: everybody does it, I've done it before, and everything online recommends it, with no apparent harm. Is this a case of getting bad info online? Anyone know?

  2. Great question TH - I've edited the post to include a response to your question about peanut butter... I hope that helps!

    Folks, please chime in with your own thoughts too - there are many different opinions on the subject of peanut butter!

  3. PS - I use a natural, organic peanut butter like Maranathaat my house (or whatever organic brand is available), so our peanut butter contains only peanuts and salt. Unsalted would probably have been preferable, but at least it's not JIF.

  4. Excellent discussion, thank you. Water available nearby, plus cornmeal mixed in with the peanut butter. That makes very good sense, and now I can make some birdseed ornaments!

    Thanks for addressing that issue.

  5. Thank you JLB for that info about Laura Erickson's book and website

  6. What a creative idea!

    I love the donut shaped bird feeder. Have other flying creatures shared any interest in this marvel?

  7. I'd never heard of the peanut butter/bird debate before -- quite fascinating. I guess the birds are one up on us humans when it comes to to this spread as they have no teeth for it to get stuck between! Too bad for those naughty raccoons. Hope the few remaining bagely bits manage to attract some feathered friends to your trees.

  8. JLB, thank you again for your kind thoughts.

  9. This is so great. It reminded me of a story we used to read when I worked in kindergarten. The book is The Night Tree by Eve Bunting. "A boy recounts his family's annual Christmas Eve outing to a nearby wood, where they decorate a special tree ("It has been our tree forever and ever") with fruit, seeds and strings of popcorn for the animals."

    After reading the story to the class, the students made birdfeeders by spreading peanut butter on pinecones and rolling them in birdseed, too. We hung them on branches outside our classroom so the kids could see the birds eating from their creations. (Although, sometimes the squirrels got them!)

  10. P.S. I started a new blog. When you get a minute, hop over and see what you think! Phoenix Qi

  11. What a wonderful idea. We don't have a garden so we can't do it ourselves but I'll recommend the idea to my parents!


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