Cullman County Master Gardeners share 2022 initiative for feeding birds during the winter

Cullman County Master Gardeners Susan Rogers (L) and Teresa Goodwin (R) in the Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden putting up pinecone feeders. (Photo contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Alabama Master Gardeners are educators trained by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. During their last meeting, they discussed taking an initiative to feed birds in the winter to help them stay healthy during their migration. On December 9, the group met at the Agriplex and prepared food for the winter birds. The chairman of the Cullman County Master Gardener’s demonstration garden, Teresa Goodwin, instructed the group how to prepare pinecones slathered with peanut butter to hang in trees for the birds.

The pinecones need to first be soaked overnight in a Clorox and water solution to kill bacteria. Then, they are baked at a low temperature, about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 30 minutes. Afterwards, they can be filled and slathered with peanut butter or lard.

The Master Gardener’s prepared about 50 pinecones and hung them around the Agriplex and the Demonstration Garden. The group plans to go back to remove the pinecones and replace them with fresh ones by the next week, continuing the process through February.

It is important for birds to have high energy foods during the winter, as they need to stop and rest and feed while they are on their migration path to warmer areas. Master Gardener Ben Johnson listed some of the birds that people could expect to see in Cullman during the winter: American robins, Carolina chickadees, yellow-rumped warblers, American goldfinches, white-throated sparrows and northern cardinals.

Johnson also shared some helpful tips for feeding birds during the winter:

  1. Feed Birds in Early Morning – Birds use energy at night to stay warm
  2. Provide Fresh, Unfrozen Water- Lakes and streams freeze and birds are thirsty
  3. Shelter from cold – Leave birdhouses high up, turn so opening is away from wind for long term, plant native shrubs
  4. High energy foods – Hang pinecones slathered with peanut butter or lard
  5. Sprinkle some seed on the ground – sparrows and other birds are ground feeders

Some local sources of bird feed are Chambers Farm and Garden Supply, Federers, Walmart and Lowe’s.

The Cullman County Master Gardeners also recognize Herb Lewis as an honorary Alabama Master Gardener. Lewis is a birder from Huntsville who has been deemed “The Birdman.” He is a retired engineer and he and his wife Terri and set up their backyard as a habitat for birds. Lewis takes beautiful pictures of his birds that he shares on his website There is an Herb Lewis bird walk set up at the Huntsville botanical garden.

Master Gardener classes start in early February. Registration is open until January 23. The classes meet once a week for 13 weeks on Wednesdays at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

For more information on classes, call 256-737-9386. The fee to register is $200.

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