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Christmas tree for wildlife.

 
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Hey friends. I wanna find out if I can decorate around  one of my existing evergreen trees to help wildlife this coming winter, especially birds. Any of you know any reusable trees that I can use after Christmas to help shelter wildlife from the dangerous storms ahead? I'm also looking for more non toxic options out there to protect birds and other creatures out there. I'm concentrating on native creatures in my community, not on any rats, house mice or stray cats. Please give some more feedback and ideas on how to help wildlife this winter. Thanks!
 
pollinator
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I buy sunflower seed to feed the birds, but I only put it out on very cold and or snowy days. We have lot of Easten Red Cedar trees and I notice lots of birds take shelter in them. The biggest thing I have for the birds, and I didn't think about them when I put it in is my little garden pond. It has a small pond part deep enough not to freeze solid and a pump going to a little stream section. Water in the stream is very shallow but has never frozen, even when ice on the pond part is 6 inches thick. I do sometimes have to remove an ice crust and snow from the stream.

On very cold days that little stream attracts many more birds and many and more kinds of birds than I ever see anywhere else. Also, the squirrels, chipmunks and one time a bob cat. Unfrozen water, if it's very cold out is apparently of great interest to about any critter.
 
Blake Lenoir
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I've got a blue spruce tree to help provide cover for songbirds and squirrels from stray cat, stray dog, hawks, and other bird of prey. How I decorate around my spruce tree with fruit and stuff?
 
master steward
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Blue spruce would be lovely decorated.

You could make edible birdseed ornaments:

https://permies.com/t/60892/kitchen/holiday-treats



I like these made in orange peel:


source

This tree is really pretty:


source

Here is an article with some ideas:

https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/animals-and-wildlife/decorate-a-tree-for-the-birds

 
Blake Lenoir
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Stunning! Could we use coconut feeders on our evergreen trees? And could we add peanut butter cones while we at it?
 
gardener
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Location: Central Indiana, zone 6a, clay loam
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I love the edible ornament idea Anne mentioned! I've also seen people use pinecones to make them. Get peanut butter in between the scales and roll in bird seed. More detailed description here:
https://www.firefliesandmudpies.com/pine-cone-bird-feeder/

If you're using ornaments like this, I would recommend being mindful of not hanging them on too thick of branches. I don't know how many times I've put out a suet cake and found it gone in the morning because the branch it was on was strong enough to support the weight of a raccoon. I know they need food too, but they aren't very good at sharing with the birds! Maybe just err on placing them on the skinnier branches so this doesn't happen to you!
 
Blake Lenoir
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What about making a reef for birds adding suet, apples, orange, grape and stuff? Tried that before?
 
pollinator
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In some ways the best ways to help wildlife is to do nothing...

Leave brush piles; this can include leaving cut Xmas trees along a fence line to offer shelter.  Leave piles of leaves, don't wash your windows (clean windows reflect causing bird strikes) on the outside.  All the "cleaning" and "tidying up" that most folks do is actually creating unsafe environments for wildlife.

Short term: bird feeders in sheltered locations, high enough that they are not a mammal attractant (bear, squirrel, raccoon), and fill with quality feed suitable for the birds in your area.  Speak with the local birders, a specialty bird store or go online to determine what the birds that frequent your property are and the best food sources for them.  

Suet cakes are only a good as the ingredients, most Dollar Store or Pet stores sell garbage suet cakes; determine who would eat your suet cakes, and what ingredients are suitable.

Water:  even if you have to replace it regularly, or heat it, this can be even more critical than food when everything is frozen.

Shelter:  as previously mentioned piles of brush, Xmas trees, even lumber under a tarp or an old shed can provide "shelter from the storm".  When it is really nasty out, I find our wee songbirds (Junco's, Sparrows, Siskins, Chickadee's) will seek shelter on the rafters of our covered deck.

Long Term:  Evergreen hedges/trees/shrubs can be critical habitat for wee critters, providing shelter as well as a source of food; many produce berries that although withered are a great source of food.  Consider planting bird friendly evergreens.

Water:  Consider a winterized pond or cold weather water source; this could be as simple as a hanging chick waterer, or as fancy as a heated bird bath.

Food:  Consider planting seed and berry bushes that are wildlife friendly...many critters, birds included do actually STORE seeds and nuts for future use; especially the chickadees, jays and nuthatches.

Invest in quality feeders and feed.  A quality feeder ideally is one suitable for your climate - I am where it is very rainy in the winter, so unless my feeders are under cover so there are issues with wet seed from rain - and the sort of seed you intend to use.

In my opinion, most feeders made from plastic are a waste of time, rarely last a year, and quickly end up as garbage as they spill/waste WAY too much feed (leading to unwanted ground feeders such as rat, bear or raccoon) or literally fall apart.  Some are only suitable for certain seed types - will only work with large or small seed.  

Consider using your clothes line to hold feeders, fill them, clip them on, run them out the line - often these are high enough to ensure you are not encouraging the wrong visitors.

Consider getting "branch hooks" (metal units that the feeders hang from ranging in length from 8 inches to 3 feet) so that feeders can be hung in trees that otherwise would be too tall, or too close to the branches (pesky rodents and coons); the longer ones are too hard for rats to climb up and down, and can be put on the end of a rope or chain attached to a very high branch.  https://www.amazon.ca/Perky-Perky-Pet-67AK-12-Inch-Feeders/dp/B01FWQU87Q/ref=sr_1_17?keywords=branch+hook&qid=1638827646&rnid=5264023011&s=lawn-garden&sr=1-17

My absolute favorite bird feeder is this pricey unit:  https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B000667W54/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1  
It has massive capacity, and is essentially both a tube and hopper feeder in one.  It easily handles all seed from black oil sunflower in the shell to Thistle or Nyger seed, and everything in between.  It is a pain to clean, but as it holds so much it is not often it needs a thorough, take apart cleaning.  I have six of them, each holding approximately 3 gallons or 10-15 lbs of seed, they usually cost around $100-$130 which seems absolutely outrageous, but they literally will last a life time as they are almost entirely made from metal.  Mine are over two years old, and showing zero signs of deterioration plus, they are relatively squirrel proof.

I find the neighbors ducks are constantly under my bird feeders, cleaning up the scraps - this may be an ideal location for wild feeders if there are no transmissible disease issues in your area - this ensures there are none left to attract unwanted critters.

I do not live where providing fruit would be useful, but I have heard in many places this is suitable; it would be worth researching.

Hummingbirds:  We have been colonized by Anna's Hummingbirds, to the point that we now have six feeders going 24/7, keeping them from freezing can be a huge issue as they are especially dependent on them during a cold weather.  Some folks place old socks over feeders, others wrap them with incandescent Xmas lights, others swap feeders, rotating them so that they do not freeze.

I am in the process of constructing feeders warmers to ensure their feeders do not freeze in our infrequent cold snaps.  You can purchase them (called a Hummingbird Hearth:  https://www.amazon.ca/Hummer-Hearth-Hummingbird-Feeder-Heater/dp/B078CY275X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3NU5YYEQ1H6VP&keywords=hummingbird+feeder+heater+-+and+roof%2Fcover&qid=1638827697&sprefix=hummingbird+feeder+hater%2Caps%2C237&sr=8-1 ) but I could not ever justify $300 for feeder heaters.  Based on this picture, and some research, I am repurposing small (5.5 inch??) heat lamps, putting in a small 11 watt bulb (theirs uses either a 7 or 15 watt bulb) and some bungy cords.  I figure, all in, it will cost me $100 for six of them, if all materials are purchased new.  This same system could also be used to keep a constant, unfrozen water source for other birds.  


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Hummingbird hearth
Hummingbird hearth
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Branch hooks
Branch hooks
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Feeder
Feeder
 
pollinator
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Last year we tried decorating for the birds with popcorn and cranberry strings. The popcorn did get eaten; some by birds and some by squirrels.  The cranberries not so popular. Now and then a Cardinal would peck at them, but not eat much. We added orange sections to a few strings, and those did get eaten by birds.

Suet blocks are popular with most all the birds.
 
Blake Lenoir
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You tried Holly berries before? And how about miseltoe for winter birds? It's really hard to find true wild miseltoe up north to invest for birds and other creatures as have holly berries. Grown winterberry before?
 
Mk Neal
pollinator
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Blake, i have two plants with winter berries. A yew with red fruit that a lot of birds and also squirrels like, and a hawthorn with orange berries that nothing seems to eat. I had a holly, but it was always bitten up by weevils and did not fruit so well. Maybe you would have better luck.

I also leave perennials like asters, goldenrod, and joe pye standing and the juncos and sparrows like to hide in them and eat the seeds.
 
Blake Lenoir
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I almost got the same thing with my crabapple and yew bush, along with my Joe pye and goldenrod to feed birds. You heat your bird bath before every winter?
 
Mk Neal
pollinator
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I actually just took down my birdbath for the winter, because I am sure I will not actually manage to keep it clean and ice free in winter. Maybe if I get a less stressful job….
 
Blake Lenoir
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M.K, ever used your old Christmas trees for fish cover for your pond before if you have one? There are folks out there recycle their old trees to create more fish habitat in local waters. Please show me an example of one.
 
Blake Lenoir
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Happy New Year! I wanna find out if anybody has begun to recycle their trees to help fish and birds?
 
Lorinne Anderson
pollinator
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I completed my HUMMINGBIRD FEEDER HEATERS, thought I would share the results.

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Blake Lenoir
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Which part of the country you from Loraine?
 
Lorinne Anderson
pollinator
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West Coast of British Columbia, Canada.  We recently had -14c, and none of the 6 feeders froze, where the birds fed; there was an inch of ice/slush up higher in the reservoir, but not the lower 4 inches, and lower portion they feed from remained unfrozen.
 
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