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Birding Focus: Interesting stories of our feathered friends.

Dark-eyed juncos find cover in discarded Christmas trees.
© George H. Harrison

The family Christmas tree makes great outdoor cover for birds.
© George H. Harrison

Old Christmas Trees Make New Bird Cover

Instead of discarding the family Christmas tree this year, turn it into cover for the birds. The life of the festive tree can be extended for several more months by taking it outside and laying it down or propping it up near or next to a bird feeder. In a matter of minutes, the old Christmas tree is providing new natural cover for the birds.

Every New Year’s, after undecorating our Christmas tree, I drag it outside and anchor it upright behind a low tray feeder just outside the sunroom where we eat breakfast and lunch everyday during the winter. The addition of the tree as cover behind the tray feeder immediately increases the number and kinds of birds that feed at the tray. In addition to the usual ground feeders, such as dark-eyed juncos and American tree sparrows, the Christmas tree cover attracts chickadees, nuthatches, northern cardinals and mourning doves. One year, we had a bobwhite use the feeder, and during other winters, ring-necked pheasants and wild turkeys visited.

If I want more cover than my one Christmas tree offers, I have gathered up and used the discarded Christmas trees of my neighbors, who have left their past glories at the curb to be picked up by the garbage man.

One year, I was late removing the Christmas tree in the spring, and an American robin built a nest in its rusty red boughs, and raised four youngsters.

-- George H. Harrison