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Homemade Holiday Treats for Pet Birds (and Their Wild Cousins)

Pine Cone Treat A variety of nutritious holiday bird treats are very simple to create, and offer the added advantage of keeping your pets occupied and engaged (a plus for you and them!).  The ingredients of those listed below can be modified to suit pets ranging from finches to macaws, and outdoor visitors of all sizes and shapes.

Stuffed Pine Cones

Pine cones are an old holiday standby for both pet and wild birds, and are used in zoo enrichment activities as well.  What’s more, they offer one of the quickest options for those beset with holiday chores (or, should I say, other joyous activities!).  Simply jam the pine cones’ nooks and crannies with natural peanut butter, and roll in dried fruit, seeds, nuts, crushed popcorn or other goodies. 

Peanut Butter Balls

Another tried and true favorite, peanut butter balls are great for those without pine-cone collecting or cooking skills.  Just mix natural peanut butter together with seeds, nuts, dried fruits, crushed popcorn, whole grain cereal (Fiber One, Grape Nuts) and similar items and roll into appropriately-sized balls.

These are also a great way of tricking picky eaters into accepting pellets, which are rendered tastier by the peanut butter.  Try adding some Egg Food to beef up the protein content…it imparts a nice consistency to the mix as well.

Fruit and Nut Cake

This take-off on a one of our own (somewhat maligned!) holiday specialties can be made in any number of ways.  Whole grain pancake batter, eggs (with ground shells included if possible), yogurt, chopped fruit, nuts and seeds serves well as a basic recipe for many species.

Mix or blend all, spoon into a baking dish or tray, and cook at 350-400 F until brown.  An endless variety of mixes can be used, and it really takes very little cooking skill to turn out a decent treat.

Wild Birds, Squirrels and Other Visitors

Wild animals cannot afford to be as picky as pets, and will accept just about anything you care to offer.  I especially like to provision used Christmas trees with all sorts of snacks…the tree can be used long after the holidays, and recycled afterwards.  If possible, “plant” your tree or otherwise arrange it in an upright position – this will provide you with host of amusing observations.

Peanuts (tied together and to the tree if you have patience), peanut butter, pine cones, suet, over-ripe fruit, leftover cakes and much more can be attached to or simply wedged among the branches to impart a holiday feel to your outdoor feeding area.

Squirrel in feederFurred residents such as rabbits, squirrels (watch at night for flying squirrels) and voles will appreciate a food-laden Christmas tree as well.  This year I’m visited most evenings by a huge opossum…it is no trouble at all (like most, it’s quite “laid back”), but be aware that rats, bears, raccoons and deer can be problematical or even dangerous.  Leaving no food about at night will deter some, but not all, unwanted visitors (please write in for further info).

Pre-Made Treats

Please also check out our huge array of pet bird treats – we have something for every bird and every situation – even pine cones!

Our wild bird “gifts” are specially formulated to supply the high energy, protein-rich foods that outdoor birds need to survive winter’s onslaught.

Further Reading

Calcium, Salt and Other Winter Bird Feeding “Extras”

Useful Winter Bird Feeding Tips and Activities




About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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