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Birds, Trees and Winter Wonder

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Birds, Trees and Winter Wonder
December 3, 2020
poem sign in forest
A poem about birds and Audubon at Northwest Trek.

A poem about birds next to a snowy owl habitat? A tree poem planted in a forest? That’s Poetry in the Park at Northwest Trek! This December, guests can wander around the wildlife park to find poetry signs right next to native Northwest animals and plants in a partnership with Tahoma Audubon Society, who installs Poetry in the Park elsewhere in Tacoma during the year.

The park is also filled with festive decorations like evergreen gnomes, white pumpkin “snowmen”, giant snowflakes on trees and a trail of animal cutouts showing just how animals (and us) need trees to live, year-round.

woman painting snowman
Staff member Rachael Mueller paints an upcycled pumpkin “snowman.”

Of course, it’s the season of giving and this year employees at Northwest Trek decided to become “habitat helpers” and create simple backyard “gifts” for birds. The food items will be hung up in the park for guests to see and get ideas for what they can do at home in their own backyards.

“We want to make it a little easier for native birds to find food in the winter,” said Education Curator Jessica Moore. “As the climate and seasons change, sometimes their natural resources are scarce.”

A bird’s summer foods like insects, fruits and sunflower seeds are nowhere to be found in the colder months.

DIY Backyard Bird Feeding

Toilet Paper Roll Bird Feeder:

toilet paper bird feeder
Moore makes a bird feeder using a toilet paper tube, cornmeal, peanut butter and bird seed
  • Mix chunky peanut butter, cornmeal and bird seed (you can replace peanut butter with Crisco shortening)
  • Use a butter knife (or your fingers if you don’t mind getting messy!) to spread the mixture onto the outside of a toilet paper roll
  • Hang in a tree!

The high fat content in peanut butter or Crisco is necessary for the birds to get more calories and help their bodies stay warm. Moore suggests using a hulled, no mess birdseed blend for this project.

If you live in a wooded area, bring in your feeders at night in the fall months so you don’t attract bears looking for food as they prepare for torpor.


Festive Garlands:

Festive garland strung with popcorn and cranberries
Festive garland strung with popcorn and cranberries
  • Grab some string, twine or yarn
  • String popcorn and cranberries on the garland
  • Hang in a tree!

You can also cut an apple into slices and make an apple garland! If you do this, make sure to remove the seeds. Apple seeds contain cyanide and could be extremely harmful, or deadly, to birds.

Refill Your Hummingbird Feeder:

While hummingbirds are known for being a spring and summer bird here in the Northwest, there are a few hummingbirds that stick around through the fall and winter. Without flowers, they’ll be searching for nectar for energy.

  • Mix 1 cup sugar with 4 cups of hot or boiling water until the sugar is dissolved
  • Do not add red dye
  • Pour into your hummingbird feeders!

Remember to thoroughly clean your feeders with a bleach water solution between refills in order to prevent harmful molds from growing or pink eye from spreading between birds. Bring in your feeders at night to prevent them from freezing.

“Not only do all of these feeders significantly help birds survive the winter, they are also fun, educational projects to do as a family that help you engage with your backyard wildlife and foster interest in local animals,” said Moore.

Another way to help: take part in the annual international Christmas bird count.

“You’re engaging in conservation by simply watching the birds in your backyard and recording what you see,” said Moore.

snowy owl
Snowy owl.