Over the holidays friends and family stop by to visit and for a few weeks there is a flurry of activity going on indoors. Outside, visitors of a different kind come calling. Though not officially invited, our feathered friends are always welcome. And like any good host or hostess, you don't want any of your guests to leave hungry. With a few ingredients from your pantry and some materials from nature you can extend warm hospitality to visiting birds and encourage them to stay awhile. Read on to find out how?
Deck the fence
You can create natural wreaths that dress up your yard and feed the birds as well.
Start with a natural grapevine wreath. You can make your own or pick one up at a craft store. Tuck evergreen branches into the wreath and then add some bittersweet vine, high bush cranberries, juniper, hawthorn, or mountain ash. The birds love these edible berries. Perhaps add a colourful bow and you have a charming winter decoration to brighten up your yard or garden.
Trim the tree
Not just for the holidays, you can decorate a tree in your garden. Make sure you choose a tree that can be seen from an inside window so you can enjoy watching the birds feast on your offerings.
Here are some easy and tasty decorations that even the kids can help with:
Use dental floss and an embroidery needle to alternately string popcorn, peanuts in the shell, fresh or dried cranberries and other dried fruits to make tasty garlands. Make them about six feet long and then just drape them on the tree. You won't have to wait long for the birds to find them.
Bird tasty ornaments
Here are a few simple 'recipes' for ornaments to hang on your tree. Hang the ornaments with natural twine or raffia, or if you want a more festive look use coloured ribbon. In the spring when the treats are long gone, the birds will use this material for nest building.
Pine cone hangers
Twine or ribbon for hangers
1 cup lard
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup dried and crumbled whole wheat bread
1⁄4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1⁄4 cup raisins or chopped dried apples
1. Tie a 10-inch length of ribbon or twine around the pinecone to create a hanger.
2. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients.
3. Stuff the mixture in between the "petals" of the pinecone. Fingers work best for this?messy but fun and the kids love this part.
4. Hang them on a tree and sit back and watch the birds devour your handiwork!
Pieces of suet (available from the butcher) slipped into mesh onion bags make a tasty treat for our feathered friends. To make small suet bags, cut onion bags into 5-inch squares and wrap them around small chunks of suet. Tie the bags with ribbon or twine and hang them in the tree.
Baking is for the birds
What guest doesn't like cookies? Here's an easy recipe that's sure to be a hit with your avian visitors.
2 cups flour
1 cup lard
1 cup bird seed
1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
2. Combine flour and lard.
3. Add eggs (including the shells) and birdseed and knead the mixture into a dough.
4. Cover and chill for 4 hours.
5. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1-inch thick.
6. With cookie cutters or a large glass, cut the dough into shapes.
7. Use a straw to make a small hole in each cookie. When baked you'll thread ribbon or twine through the hole for use as a hanger.
8. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 to 13 minutes. The cookies are done when they're hard.
Makes 6 wreaths
1 tube of refrigerator biscuits (use 2 for each wreath)
Birdseed (Small seeds work best)
Ribbon or twine
1. Preheat the oven according to package directions.
2. Separate the dough pieces. Press the ends of two pieces together to form a wreath.
3. Cover the top and sides of the wreath with peanut butter.
4. Put the birdseed in a shallow tray and carefully dip the peanut butter covered wreath in birdseed.
5. Place each wreath on a baking sheet with the peanut-butter/seed side up. You may need to re-form the wreath's circular shape.
6. Bake according to package directions.
7. When cool loosely tie a ribbon or twine around each wreath and use as a hanger.
Birds need water in winter as well as summer, for drinking and to keep their feathers clean. Running water is hard to find in winter if the temperatures are below freezing. But, you can keep water ice-free all winter long in your bird bath with a bird bath heater designed especially for this purpose. You'll find them at your local garden centre or wherever bird feeding supplies are sold.