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