Montreal will soon begin its annual post-holiday tradition of collecting Christmas trees across the city — stripped of decorations and ready to be chipped into mulch.
It's a good use of dried up evergreens, but rather than lugging your sad-looking, tinder-dry tree to the curb, you might want to turn it into a cozy resting place and a backyard feeder for overwintering birds.
Nature Conservancy of Canada says that is a great way to help birds survive the most frigid months of the year.
"We've lost 2.9 billion birds over the last 50 years in Canada and the United States due to various factors like climate change and loss of habitat," said Andrew Holland, a spokesperson for the nature advocacy organization.
"You take the time to decorate the tree and pick out the perfect ornaments and what-not in your living room. Well, you can do the same thing in your backyard."
Birds such as chickadees and goldfinches stick around all year, but they don't have the luxury of slipping into long underwear and turning up the heat.
They need a warm place to perch and reliable food sources throughout the winter, Holland said.
By standing your Christmas tree near bird feeders, or trimming the tree itself with delicious bird-friendly foods, Holland said you can give the feathered critters a place to rest, keep warm and eat.
Make it a family project
While the project may not be possible for apartment dwellers, he said those who have the space can make it a family project.
He suggests everyone in the family pull on their boots and trim the tree with things like pine cones slathered in peanut butter or other nutritious, bird-friendly snacks.
Some people simply tie the trees or Christmas wreaths to their deck near their bird feeder, he said.
Setting a tree up in the backyard for a few months "may be giving various bird populations a fighting chance to survive," said Holland on CBC's Let's Go.
From there, he said the tree's decomposition process can be sped up through a few simple tricks once the weather warms up. He suggests cutting off the branches and drilling holes in the trunk.
Montreal pickup begins soon
For those who don't have the space for a backyard conservation project, municipalities like Montreal do offer a pickup service.
That will start next week, with most collections scheduled to begin Jan. 8. If there's a snowstorm, pickup will be pushed back a week.
Before sending your tree off to the chipper, don't forget to remove all the decorations.
For curbside pickup, make sure the tree is free from snow, not blocking the sidewalk or obstructing snow-clearing operations. Place the tree facing the street and check your borough's pickup schedule to avoid fines.
Residents can also bring their trees to ecocentres to be recycled.