15 Feb 6 Common Questions About Feeding Suet to Birds
Are you interested in offering suet to the birds in your backyard? Suet is a high-energy food that is especially popular with birds during the colder months when insects are scarce. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or new to the hobby, you may have some questions about feeding suet to your feathered friends. In this blog, we’ll answer six common questions about suet to help you get started.
What is suet and how is it used in bird feeding?
Suet is a high-energy formulation of animal fat and other ingredients that is attractive to insect-eating birds. It is made by clarifying, chopping, and boiling the fat that surrounds the kidneys of animals (primarily beef and mutton), and then separating the water and fat upon cooling. Suet is a popular treat for backyard birds during the fall and winter months, as the extra energy it provides helps them survive tough weather conditions.
What are suet cakes and how are they made?
Suet cakes, also known as fat balls, are nutritional supplements for wild birds that are typically fed in bird feeders. They are made with a mixture of ingredients that may include suet (rendered beef fat), peanut butter, peanuts, seeds, cracked corn, and birdseed. Suet cakes are convenient to use because they are easy to present to birds, compared to offering suet in its raw form.
How is suet best served to birds?
There are a few options for serving suet to birds. One simple method is to smear it onto a branch or a hollowed log. Another option is to use a cage feeder, which can be purchased for a low cost. For a feeder that holds multiple blocks of suet at once, you can try a special suet feeder. Suet is often presented in special wire cages or suet logs, which are low-maintenance options that only need to be refilled once a week or so, and can be left in your yard all year round.
Which Birds Eat Suet?
Suet is a popular winter treat for a variety of birds, including woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, thrushes, creepers, thrashers, jays, and nearly all woodpeckers, including flickers. Even if you haven’t seen these birds at your suet feeders in other seasons, try again in the fall and winter. You may be surprised at the new visitors you attract.
In addition to these birds, suet can also be enjoyed by Eurasian bullfinches, starlings, warblers, orioles, cardinals, northern mockingbirds, catbirds, black-headed grosbeaks, blackbirds, and blue jays. It’s a great way to bring a wide range of birds to your backyard, especially during the colder months when other food sources may be scarce.
If you’re looking to attract more birds to your yard this winter, consider offering suet as a tasty and nutritious treat. You’ll be sure to have a wide variety of feathered friends stopping by for a visit.
Will I attract other wildlife with suet?
Keep in mind that birds aren’t the only creatures that love suet. Raccoons, squirrels, rats, skunks and even bears stop for a suet treat, too. So think about what animals live in your neighborhood before you decide where to place your feeders full of homemade goodness. Not only is suet an attractive food for many different birds, but it can also attract many unwanted visitors to feeders, including squirrels, raccoons, mice, rats, and even bears. Large suet feeders should be used with appropriate baffles and other safeguards to discourage these feeder pests. If suet is offered in tray or ground feeders, it should only be presented in small quantities that the birds will eat before other pests discover it.
Can I use suet year-round?
Many backyard birders only offer suet during the winter, and it is true that high calories make suet perfect for helping birds generate enough body heat to survive cold temperatures. Suet can actually be offered all year long, however, and birds in spring, summer and fall will enjoy it just as much as winter species. It traditionally has been used as a good substitute for the insects that birds usually feed upon but are not plentiful in cold weather. Suet can be presented all year long Raw suet turns rancid quickly in warm weather. It melts when temperatures rise above 70 degrees and might stick to birds’ feathers. Gooey feathers are dangerous, so raw suet should be served only during the colder months.
By offering suet to the birds in your backyard, you can help them stay healthy and energized during the colder months. Whether you opt for store-bought suet cakes, like the ones at Barn Owl, or make your own, be sure to follow the guidelines outlined in this blog and ask our staff for help to ensure that your feathered friends are getting the best possible nutrition. With a little bit of planning and some basic knowledge, you can easily add suet to your bird-feeding repertoire and enjoy the colorful and diverse range of birds that it attracts.