Birdwatch

A Tree of Delights

Decorating can be for the birds, too

By Susan Campbell

This season, why not create a gift for your feathered friends and consider “decorating” a holiday tree just for them? Although a hearty evergreen would be best, anything from a leafless sapling to a young longleaf pine will work. Better yet, a younger American holly or other berry-laden variety would be a terrific choice!

Consider this a project for the whole family, just like hanging ornaments or setting up lights in the yard. Keep in mind that, especially when using an evergreen, you are providing not one, but two, basic needs that all our wintering birds have: food and shelter.

To “decorate” your tree:

— Drape with traditional strings of popcorn and cranberries or other dried fruits for the bluebirds and the blue jays.

— Hang homemade suet on pine cones for the chickadees and nuthatches.

— Nestle shallow cups with sunflower seed or millet on the thickest branches for the cardinals and titmice.

— Smear peanut butter on the bark to attract woodpeckers and wintering warblers.

Last, but certainly not least, your tree will invariably attract natural food in the form of tiny insects. It will take no time for Carolina wrens or ruby-crowned kinglets to find them between the leaves or needles, or under the bark.

It may be that you create your gift to the birds just after Christmas — when your indoor tree is finished providing joy for the family. This is about the time that natural foods are waning and the birds are foraging in earnest. No doubt, bird species large and small will find your arboreal creation before long. Keep track of which ones you see using the tree. It may be a longer list than you might think.

Of course, other wildlife will love this holiday gift, too. In addition to gray squirrels and perhaps a fox squirrel, southern flying squirrels may glide in at night for a snack. A raccoon or opossum may sniff it out. Even a white-tailed deer or two will probably take a nibble. But then, who doesn’t appreciate a treat during this special season?  PS

Susan Campbell would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos.  She can be contacted at susan@ncaves.com.

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