Well we are finally having typical November weather here in Ontario (just in time for December to begin!). It is colder outside and yesterday we even had a few minutes of snow! The Christmas lights were turned on in our local park last night, people are beginning to decorate their homes, and the parking lots outside stores are becoming crowded with holiday shoppers. This time of year also means that the birds who have stayed behind for winter are searching for food and they could use a little helping hand from us. There are many commercial seed mixes and suet balls available but you can also create some special treats for the birds from things you have on hand in your kitchen. Remember, though, that if you start feeding the birds, you need to continue as they may come to rely on you as a source of food and could starve without what you provide!
Bird food mix– make a mix of 2 cups dried, chopped apples, 2 cups raisins, 2 cups chopped nuts, 1 cup chopped prunes, 1 cup of dried melon or squash seeds
Oatmeal blend – Use leftover oatmeal from your breakfast and stir it in a skillet with some chopped apple, dried fruit, and even some leftover chopped bacon.
Birdie cupcakes – 1 cup oatmeal, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 T. baking soda, 1/4 cup peanuts, 1/2 T. thistle/niger seed, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup water, a small jar of peanut butter (you need enough to “frost” the cupcakes)
Mix all ingredients together (except peanut butter and sunflower seeds) and fill sections of muffin tin 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. After they cool, frost them with peanut butter and sprinkle the sunflower seeds on top.
Bird pudding – Melt 1 cup lard and 1 cup crunchy peanut butter together. Add 1 cup quick oats, 1 cup flour, 2 cups cornmeal. Optional: You can add 1/2 cup bird seed and/or raisins to this. Pour this mixture into a pan and put into the fridge or freezer to harden. Cut up into pieces that will fit in your suet basket or on a platform feeder. Any leftovers can be put in Ziplocs and stored in the freezer.
Another bird pudding – Melt 1 cup lard and 1 1/2 cups peanut butter together. Stir in 1/2 cup millet, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/3 cup chopped figs, and 1/3 cup cornmeal. Form these into balls (you can form them around strings so that you have a way to hang them up). Store in the freezer until ready to use them.
A really neat idea for a bird treat – Fry up half a pound of bacon and crumble it. Set aside the bacon grease. Melt 1 lb. of suet and mix it with the bacon and bacon grease. Stir in 1 cup of peanut butter and then any seeds and/or dried fruit you have on hand. A good suggestion I found is to put this mixture into foam coffee cups and place in the freezer until solid and to store (I would advise storing the cups in Ziploc bags) until ready to use. You can then peel the foam cup away to use them. (You can use this same foam cup method with any of the suet mixtures.)
Pinecone treats – When I taught school, we would make birdfeeders to put out in the trees on the school grounds and for the children to take home to put in their own yards. We used pinecones as the base and spread peanut butter on them. From there, you have several possibilities. You can roll them in birdseed or chopped up dried fruits or you can even use a granola mix. Hang them in your trees for the birds to enjoy. When my daughter was little we used to make these and hang them, along with pieces of yarn from our evergreen trees outside on Christmas Day. They added cute little decorations to the trees and were our Christmas gift to the birds!
Birdie Shish Kabob – Tie a knot in one end of a long piece of twine. You can then string fruits and vegetables on this twine to hang up in the trees for the birds. With the larger fruits and vegetables, you should cut them into more appropriately sized pieces. Fresh or dried fruits and vegetables will work for this and some suggested ones are: apples, pears, grapes, squash, oranges, and berries.
You can even use cookie cutters or jelly moulds etc. to shape the puddings/suet mixtures in to add an extra touch to your creations – this is particularly nice if you are decorating trees as Christmas trees for the birds (for example you can make a star shaped suet mixture to use near the top of the tree). Another great idea and a great way to recycle is to use those mesh bags that you get vegetables like onions in as holders for these puddings/suet mixtures.
There are some foods that should be avoided when feeding wild birds. Do not give them rhubarb or avocado as it is poisonous to many types of birds. If you make up a sugar-water mixture to put in feeders for hummingbirds or orioles do not add food colouring as this is believed to harm them. Avoid raw rice and pasta, honey, dried beans and peas, chocolate, and anything carbonated or coffee-flavoured.