Archive for December, 2011

Recycle Your Christmas Tree in to a Bird Feeder

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” ~ Maya Angelou

As the needles begin to fall from your Christmas tree, it’s time to consider recycling, or ‘up-cycling’ the tree.  Consider turning your tree into a natural birdie banquet for the new year!

Remove your precious keepsake ornaments and replace them with bird friendly tasty ‘ornaments’.  After you have un-decorated the tree, move it outdoors, and secure it to a sturdy location outdoors such as next to a flag pole or post using a bungee cord or twine.  Locate the tree as you would locate any bird feeder.  Birds prefer a spot about 10 feet from cover, either evergreens or shrubs.  This distance prevents predators such as cats from stalking the birds as they eat.  It also gives the birds a place to rest.

Recycled Christmas Tree Turned Bird Feeder

Recycled Christmas Tree Turned Bird Feeder

If you have trouble with birds colliding with your windows, locate your tree (and other feeders) closer to the windows, as this tree is, so the birds are travelling at a slower speed when they collide which will reduce the number of casualties.

Decorate the tree with any bird feeder you choose.  We’ve made our own feeders using pine cones, spread with peanut butter, then rolled in birdseed.

Pine Cone with Peanut Butter and Rolled in Bird Seed

Pine Cone with Peanut Butter and Rolled in Bird Seed

Tie a ribbon around the cone to create a hanger for hanging on the tree.

Thistle Feeder

Thistle Feeder

We’ve also hung an inexpensive nylon thistle feeder (available at your local garden center) filled with thistle, a favorite for finches.

Suet Feeder

Suet Feeder

We have also  added a suet feeder for our wintering woodpeckers to enjoy.  Bon appetite!

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Attracting Cardinals In Winter

Cardinals are among the most beautiful birds in the world.

Male Cardinal

Male Cardinal

With brilliant red  feathers, head crest and face mask, the male cardinal is the most stunning and popular of all songbirds.  The female is brown with reddish tinted wings, tail and head crest with a  bright orange-red bill.

Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal

Since cardinals do not migrate, if you establish an amenable habitat, you may have a cardinal family live in your  yard for many years.   The female will nest two or three times a year in  small trees, bushes and shrubs.

Cardinals are easy to attract because they are eager to dine at most any available bird feeder.  Seeds and fruits comprise 90 percent of the cardinal’s diet in  the fall and winter.   They will begin feeding early in the morning and they’ll keep returning until evening.  Sunflower seeds are the favorite food for Cardinals. They often sift through the entire mixture of seeds to search out the sunflower seeds before starting on the other seeds. Other seeds they enjoy are millet and safflower seeds.

Cardinals are very adaptable and can be found in hardwood forest habitats and urban backyards.  Like most birds, Cardinals prefer to have a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs in the area of the feeder to use as cover from predators.  They’ll often build their nest in evergreens or shrubs that face a feeding area.   The Cardinal’s main predators are hawks, squirrels and owls.

Don’t forget about the importance of a bird bath and bird bath heater for winter feeding.  To read more see blog; “Winter Birding in Minnesota“.

If you are looking for a bird watching destination in Minnesota, check out this bed and breakfast just west of Minneapolis.  You’ll find five distinct bird environments; lake, marsh, prairie, hardwood forest and agricultural fields.

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Winter birding in Minnesota

Birding is fun all year long, but during the winter, birds require slightly different nutritional requirements and menu than during the summertime.

Water is the most important ingredient of a winter feeding program.  Often well intentioned birders feed birds during the winter but forget that our avian friends require water.

Cardinal at heated bird bath

Cardinal at heated bird bath

You’ll need a heating element to keep the bird bath water from freezing, and these heaters can be found at your local garden center.

You may want to place your bird bath and winter feeders on a deck railing so they are easier to access when the snow accumulates.

Place feeders in your yard preferably near a shelter provided by conifers, marsh or buildings.  However, to avoid giving raptors and cats an advantage in catching birds, feeders should be at least ten feet from the nearest cover where predators could hide.

Black oil sunflower seed and cardinal mixes have the greatest appeal to the largest spectrum of birds wintering in Minnesota.  That list of birds includes cardinals, blue jays, black-capped chickadees, finches and nuthatches.

Peanuts are nutritious for birds such as woodpeckers, blue jays, and cardinals.

Woodpecker at peanut feeder

Woodpecker at peanut feeder

Many wintering birds such as woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches benefit from the high energy nutritional benefits of suet and peanut butter.

Using these tips your birds will stay all winter and find nutrition and water when they need it most.

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