Seeds are a great way to get birds into your yard—but they’re not the only food group out there. Birds have varied diets and some of the following foods will help you attract an even greater selection of birds. Here’s the latest advice from Cornell Labs ‘All About Birds’
- Bird Suet
- Peanut butter
- Fruits and fruit seeds
- Grit and minerals
- Bacon drippings
Suet is technically defined as the hard fat around the kidneys and loins in beef and mutton, but in common usage, most kinds of beef fat are also called suet and can safely be fed to birds. Suet is particularly attractive to woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays, and starlings. Wrens, creepers, kinglets, and even cardinals and some warblers occasionally visit suet feeders. Animal fat is easily digested and metabolized by many birds; it’s a high-energy food, especially valuable in cold weather.
Raw suet grows rancid quickly when temperatures are above freezing; don’t offer that except in winter. When suet is melted and the impurities removed (“rendering”), it keeps much better, but can still get soft during warm weather. When suet gets soft, it can coat belly feathers, a dangerous situation especially in spring and summer when birds are incubating—tiny pores on the birds’ eggs may get clogged, preventing the developing embryo from getting enough oxygen.
Suet cakes are blocks made from suet or a thick substitute mixed with other ingredients, such as cornmeal, peanuts, fruits, or even dried insects. Because corn and peanuts can provide a growth medium for dangerous bacteria, it’s important for you to make your own suet cakes or to buy them from reputable dealers. It may be prudent to keep suet cakes made with corn, cornmeal, or peanuts refrigerated until using.
Try this easy recipe to make your own high energy bird suet that includes many of the recommended items listed above. Most birds will enjoy this suet during winter and throughout early spring when it is still too cold for plenty of insects and worms.
Bird Suet Recipe
What you will need:
- 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 2 cups animal fat such as lard; or suet from the butcher
- 2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Nut pieces, seeds, dried fruit, apple pieces or chopped vegetables.
- 1 cup containers plus a metal suet holder or any sack with holes, such as an onion bag.
- Combine all dry ingredients with fruit/nuts/seeds/apple.
- Melt lard and peanut butter in the microwave on low.
- Stir dry ingredient mix into melted lard/peanut butter mixture.
- Pour into 1 cup containers.
- Let it cool, then place it in the freezer.
- When solid, place in your suet container and hang in a tree or close to a window so you can watch the action.
- Squirrels love this suet! So hang it on a long wire so they cannot reach it or use a baffle just above your suet.
- Starlings are also very fond of suet. To dissuade them, offer suet in a feeder that requires birds to feed hanging upside down. Woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches will access it easily, but starlings cannot.
You can expect Downy, Hairy and Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Chickadee, Red Breasted and White Breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, House Finch, Sparrow, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Robins.
Resource Cornell Labs “All About Birds”
Photo Credit Hyde Park Feeds