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Christmas for the birds.

Stop! Don't throw away that Christmas tree. It's now ready to go back to work doing one of the things trees do so well. Let it feed the birds.

If you don't have a deck or open porch, just put the tree in the yard in a location where you can see it easily from a window, It can be left on the stand that you used when the tree was indoors. You may have to do a little bracing or guying to keep it from blowing over in a high wind, but even if it does topple, the birds will still love it.

You can leave a few Christmas ornaments on it to please your own sense of aesthetics. Personally, I don't think the birds really care.

The next step is to create some ornaments to hold birdseed, suet, peanut-butter paste, breadcrumbs, or other avian goodies. If you have a workshop, it's easy and a lot of fun to make a variety of bird-food containers that you can paint with bright colors to suit your taste. Spear the containers with a hanging wire, fill them with seed or other treats, and hang them throughout the tree.

A favorite of mine is the peanut-butter-paste post. just take a two- to three-inch round post about 12 inches long (a limb from a tree does nicely) and bore holes all the way through, approximately every two inches and at different points on the circumference.

It doesn't hurt to leave the bark on. You can insert an open eye-screw in the top for a hanger or make one from a coat hanger. Lastly, fill the holes with the peanut-butter paste.

I make the paste using one part peanut butter, two parts cornmeal, two parts bacon grease, and whatever I find in the refrigerator that I think the birds would like-such as rice, nuts, or pieces of suet or fat. The paste should be made rather thick; add more cornmeal if necessary.

Once the post is filled with paste, it can be hung on the tree. It won't be long before chickadees, nuthatches, finches, song sparrows, and a host of other birds will come along.

For other containers, I take a two-inch-thick piece of white pine and cut out life-size bird shapes with a bandsaw. After painting them with appropriate colors, I bore two or three one-inch holes in the back of the body of the bird as deep as I can without going through. Again, fill the holes with peanut-butter paste or birdseed, and insert a wire in the top so that you can hang the wooden bird on a limb.

Another excellent container for bird food is a pine cone-the bigger, the better. Hang it on the tree upside down so that the small pockets formed by the upside-down scales can be filled with paste or seeds. If you can find some old turtle shells, they too can be wired, hung on a limb, and filled with birdseed.

If you don't have a workshop and the necessary tools to make containers, use your ingenuity and make them from milk cartons, plastic food containers, and other household items.

The greater the variety of food you put out, the greater the variety of birds you will attract. Be sure and include a lot of sunflower seeds. Some commercial birdseed contains too many seeds that the birds disdain and kick out on the ground. If you raise sunflowers, just hang the whole sunflower head in the tree, and let the birds dig the seeds out.

For other food, you can buy suet and cut it in chunks about two inches square, thread a string through them, and tie this kabob" to a limb. If you have any holly berries left over from Christmas wreaths, put them out too. An appreciative cedar waxwing may pay you a visit. Or if you have cedar trees available with their blue berries, or privet hedge with its berries, cut some of the limbs that have berries and tie them to your tree.

We have a special friend whom most people don't like, but we do because we don't grow corn. He is Blackie the crow, and one reason we like him is that he digs the Japanese-beetle grubs out of our lawn. We like his antics too. He flies into the yard, and I talk to him like an old friend. Eventually, he waddles up toward the house and, once my wife Dee and I are inside, flies to the deck and partakes of the offerings on our avian Christmas tree.

I grow and sell Fraser firs, which are really the prince of Christmas trees because they hold their needles and maintain their fragrance longer than any other evergreen used for a holiday decoration. I keep my Yuletide tree until April with nary a needle fallen. After that, I find a gully somewhere and put the tree there to shelter rabbits and other wild neighbors. It will provide some protection for wildlife for up to an additional year.

Most places, you have to pay a mighty fine price for a Christmas tree, and the cost per day is excessive if you limit its use to a week or two. But if you share it with the birds, the cost drops to that of-well, birdfeed.

And if you happen to be an amateur photographer, as I am, an avian Christmas tree provides the opportunity for snapping some of the best bird pictures you've ever made, right out your window. Not only that, but you can also learn a lot about your feathered neighbors-and I'm sure they'll repay you by singing your praises.
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:food for birds on Christmas trees
Author:Smith, Walton R.
Publication:American Forests
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Previous Article:Nonfederal public forests.
Next Article:Toward a new forestry.

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