Winter can be tough on wild birds, so be eco-smart and recycle your Christmas tree, decorative holly boughs, and pine swags to benefit backyard birds. Disposing of holiday greenery with birds in mind offers wildlife both protection and food. And, eco-smart, recycling strategies are natural, learning opportunities.
Create a family learning opportunity
If you enjoy backyard birds and want to feed and protect them, you’re not alone. The US Census Bureau indicates over 65 million Americans, young and old, feed the wild birds in their yards or parks. Learning about and attracting backyard birds is a powerful way for children and adults to educate themselves about wildlife and nature. Making a feeder or shelter out of a recycled Christmas tree is a wonderful, family learning strategy.
Make it a family activity to recycle the old tree and greenery. Work together to decide how to attract and protect backyard birds. Then, enjoy the naturalist’s challenge of identifying the backyard birds together.
Three ways to recycle your old Christmas tree and holiday greenery for the birds
1. Make a brush pile
Add to or create a brush pile for the birds. They can flit into its branches for protection, perching during the day, and roosting at night. Drape pine and holly boughs in the recycled Christmas tree’s branches or place them beneath the tree to add protection for ground feeding birds. A brush pile at the edge of your property can be a convenient lifesaver for birds in the winter.
2. Create an instant perch
If you don’t have a brush pile, simply place your tree against a fence, propped up against shrubbery or a lawn tree. If you place the tree near your bird feeder, feeding birds can sit on its branches for protection as they crack open sunflower seeds or shelter while waiting their turn to approach your feeder. Again, use old holly boughs to provide protective perches, both high and low, in the feeding area.
3. Construct a woodpecker stump
Cut some or all of the branches from your Christmas tree. With the trunk exposed, drill in holes that you can fill with suet or peanut butter for woodpeckers, nuthatches, and other backyard birds. Dig a hole and “plant” your stump or tie it to an existent tree or fence post. Place old, holiday greenery on the ground or snow and toss out sunflower seeds or corn for the ground feeding birds.
Build out learning with bird identification books
Using a good field guide to identify backyard birds will enhance your family’s learning opportunities. Here are three, excellent field guide choices:
1. The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America has full-color illustrations and a quick-find index. It’s available from the National Geographic Store, online.
2. The Peterson Field Guides are the classic birder’s references, and they cover nature from trees and flowers through birds and insects. The Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America combines both the Eastern and Western editions of the Roger Tory Peterson books into one volume.
3. The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is a one volume edition and is the choice of birders, who prefer an excellent photographic field guide.
Bird identification field guides for children and beginning birders
For youngsters, the Petersen’s Field Guides for Young Naturalists series has a Backyard Birds edition with a straightforward design suitable to beginning birders. Additionally, the National Audobon Society publishes A First Field Guide for Birds that is a photographic field guide designed for adolescents.
Recycle your neighbor’s tree, too!
To supply both cover and a stump feeder, consider collecting your neighbor’s old Christmas tree for use in your yard. If you collect together several trees, you’ll be able to make a brush pile or fallen tree windbreak that can be shelter not only for backyard birds like chickadees, sparrows, mourning doves, and nuthatches, but also for rabbits, turkeys, and pheasants.
Further tips from the US Fish & Wildlife Service
More tips are available from the US Department of the Interior’s US Fish & Wildlife Service. Available for online PDF download is their flyer, Christmas Tree for Wildlife: Backyard Habitat for Wildlife, that has Christmas tree usage and recycling tips to benefit wildlife.
Wise recycling of your Christmas tree and decorative holiday greenery helps backyard birds survive the cold, winter months. It brings the wonderful chance to learn about winter birds and backyard wildlife. Learn as you observe wild birds sheltering in the branches of your old Christmas tree or perched on discarded holly boughs. Identify the birds through behaviors and field marks as the family enjoys the winter’s hungry birds at your natural feeding stations. Recycling an old Christmas tree is smart; it creates environmentally sound, fun-filled learning opportunities for the entire family!
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