A Christmas tree is a lovely holiday decoration, and it can be even lovelier after the holidays when you recycle it to help wild birds. There are several different ways to recycle Christmas trees to benefit the birds, no matter how big the tree is or what condition it is in after the holidays. By keeping your birds in mind when you dispose of the tree, you can help the birds enjoy winter even more, and you may even attract larger flocks with your festive recycling. With these different techniques, you may just be asking neighbors if you can recycle their trees as well!
The easiest and most common way to recycle a Christmas tree for the birds is to add it to a brush pile. If you do not have a brush pile already, prop the tree up next to a garage, shed or fence where the birds can easily flit into the branches. This creates an instant roosting area to shelter sparrows, finches and other small birds from wind, storms and other inclement weather, and the tree provides convenient perches for birds waiting their turn at your feeders.
There is a lot of wood on Christmas trees that can easily be turned into bird feeders. Trim the branches away from the trunk, leaving short lengths for perches. Saw the trunk into 6-12-inch lengths, and using a spade bit or large drill bit, carve 1-inch holes on the feeder's surface. Screw a hook into the top of the feeder for easy hanging, and fill the holes with homemade suet or peanut butter to attract nuthatches, woodpeckers, chickadees and other backyard birds.
If your tree isn’t large enough to create a feeder or add to a brush pile, consider using a wood chipper to create natural mulch to add to flowerbeds and gardens. This mulch, in addition to suppressing weeds, will be a rich source of insects for ground-feeding birds such as sparrows, towhees and quail. This is also a great way to dispose of branches after creating feeders or to recycle a tree in the spring that was part of a winter brush pile.
If you live near a shoreline, contact your local wildlife management office about using discarded Christmas trees for beach erosion control. A line of several trees, properly positioned, can shield large areas of critical shorebird nesting habitat. Both large and small trees are useful for these habitat conservation projects, as any branches will catch sand and help keep it from being eroded during winter storms.
If you have a potted live Christmas tree instead of a cut tree, nurse it through the winter for spring planting to add to your bird-friendly landscape. Pine trees of all varieties will attract different birds for shelter, nesting and seeds, and winter birds in particular are fond of pine trees. Properly positioned, a pine tree can be a focal point for your landscape and a happy spot for birds to gather for many more holiday seasons.