Strands of popcorn and cranberries are quaint and rustic holiday decorations, and properly assembled, they can be beautiful and delicious edible string bird feeders. It's easy to create seasonal feeder garlands, and there is a wide range of birds that will happily celebrate the holidays with such treats.
What You Need
Only simple supplies are needed to make an edible garland for the birds. A needle with a large eye, such as a tapestry needle, is essential, and it should be strong enough to pierce different foods that will be part of the decoration. Yarn, string, ribbon, or twine is the best material for holding the garland, though sturdy upholstery thread is also suitable. Avoid thin, hard-to-see threads such as fishing line or dental floss, however, which could create a tangling threat once the food is consumed and leftover thread scatters. A thimble can be useful for pushing the needle through different foods as they are strung on the garland, or a thin, sharp awl can be used to create small holes to make the project easier.
Foods for the Garland
A variety of different foods can be strung to create an edible garland that birds will enjoy, but choose foods that are suitable for the exact birds in your yard. Cranberry garlands are popular, and fruit may add attractive spots of color to the garland. If no frugivorous birds are spending the winter in your area, however, berries or fruit pieces may end up rotting on the string long after other treats are consumed, and strings of nuts may be a better choice.
There are a variety of kitchen scraps birds can eat, and popular choices of treats for a bird feeder garland include:
- Fresh, uncooked cranberries, blueberries, or other berries
- Fresh grapes, either whole or cut in half
- Unsalted, unbuttered popcorn, ideally air-popped
- Soaked raisins, prune halves, apricots, or other dried fruits
- Toasted whole-grain oat cereal (Cheerios or similar) without added flavors or sweetening
- Whole-grain shredded wheat cereal squares without frosting or flavoring
- Whole, in-shell peanuts with no salt or flavoring
- Apple or orange chunks or slices
- Dried orange slices or wedges
- Small bits of semi-firm cheese, possibly cut into festive shapes
- Stale or toasted whole-grain bread cut into shapes with cookie cutters
When planning an edible garland, always keep the birds' health and nutritional needs in mind, and use unhealthy foods sparingly. Rare treats can be fine for the birds, but avoid offering too many less nutritious foods that could lead to health problems. Similarly, no moldy or contaminated foods should ever be offered to birds.
Garland Making Tips
Making a bird feeder garland is as easy as stringing cranberries and other foods along a length of string, twine, or yarn and hanging it out for the birds to enjoy. With a bit of care, however, a garland can be even more attractive and useful.
- Cut the string, twine, or floss to a suitable length. One long garland may be the most attractive, but smaller swags and loops can be easier to string and will not pose as great a tangle threat after the food is eaten. Smaller sections are also easier to replace as the feeder gets more popular.
- Separate different foods into individual piles or bowls and discard scraps that are broken and cannot be strung for the garland. Rotten or otherwise unsuitable food for birds should also be properly discarded. Knowing the exact quantities of treats available can help you plan an attractive garland.
- String treats on the garland in a festive pattern, such as alternating different numbers of berries with popcorn or framing each cranberry with cereal loops. Longer patterns with more food choices can become elaborate, intricate decorations. Coordinate colors, textures, and shapes for even more visual interest.
- Instead of string or yarn, use sturdy but flexible wire to create the garland, and shape it into a wreath, heart, bell, star, or another unique shape for more decorative emphasis. You could even create letters to make a festive message to hang on a tree or fence. Leave an extra loop of wire bare from treats for convenient hanging.
Hanging the Garland
Hanging a bird feeder garland in a tree or draping it around a feeding station will bring it to the attention of backyard birds quickly. There are many other options, however, for using this tasty decoration to add color and beauty to a winter backyard. Use several layers of garland to create thicker swags from eaves, fences, or gutters, or wrap a longer garland around a deck or porch railing where birds can easily perch to peck at it. If you have opted for several smaller loops instead of one long garland, use them as quick and easy ornaments to decorate a delicious tree for the birds.
In addition to an edible garland, other delicious treats can be used to decorate a Christmas tree for the birds, including:
- Birdseed ornaments
- Edible birdhouses
- Pine cone bird feeders
- Individual suet balls or festive suet shapes
- Small hanging feeders
- Seasonal feeders, such as snowman mesh feeders
Putting many of these decorations together can turn an otherwise bland, bare tree into a popular feeding station as well as a unique and engaging holiday decoration. You can even decorate a snowman to feed birds nearby, creating an entire outdoor scene to serve as a seasonal buffet. Birds, squirrels, and other winter wildlife will be sure to celebrate the season with every bite they enjoy.