Most people who feed wild birds have seen suet cakes and suet feeders for sale, but often don’t know when or how to use them as wild bird food or bird feeders. Suet can help you welcome a whole new set of delightful birds to your backyard feeders. There are many choices in suet and feeders. Let’s take a look at which might be best for you.
What is suet?
Suet is rendered beef fat with other ingredients mixed in. Since it is a fat, in its pure form it will melt, and rot if the temperature is over 70 degrees. Suet cakes you buy at a store have been specially blended so they will not melt and can be fed year round. Suet is a very high-energy food that is often fed to insect-eating birds in winter when their favorite bugs are hard to find. It will attract many new types of wildlife that doesn’t eat the seed in your regular feeders.
Which birds like suet?
The many types of suet attract many different birds, including:
- Woodpeckers such as the tiny downy woodpecker can feed clinging to the side of the feeder, or even upside-down. They will eat most suet types, but they especially like nutty suet. Hairy or pleated woodpeckers also like suet.
- Chickadees such as black-capped chickadees are quite bold, and will often learn to eat from a birder’s hand. Chickadees like suet with small seeds.
- Bluebirds like the eastern bluebird enjoy berry suet cakes and tend to be attracted to feeders near nesting sites.
- The northern mockingbird has grown less common as fewer and fewer of their favored food plant, multiflora roses, are planted, but they and other mockingbirds will be attracted to cherry or berry suet.
- Most warblers like suet with small seeds in it.
- Kinglets like the gold crowned kinglet prefer suet with small seeds.
- These tiny little charmers like the tufted titmouse prefer small seed suet.
- Nuthatches such as the common white-breasted nuthatch like nutty or seed-filled suet cakes.
- Jays such as blue jays love nuts and like a suet cake with peanuts.
- Robins cannot cling to a grate-type suet feeder, but if you provide suet on a ground or platform feeder, they will greedily accept suet with seeds.
- Starlings are often unwelcome at a feeder. They will eat all types of suet, and aggressively chase other birds away. Since they do not cling, a wire basket-type feeder can deter them.
- Tiny northern house wrens relish suet with seeds, and are more likely to visit a feeder near a nesting site.
Now that we know which birds like suet and which kinds of suet to offer, you will need to know how to offer it. There are several common types of feeders for suet, as well as a few unusual ones. The three most common types are:
Wire basket feeders
- These are a closed basket that you slip the cake into. You can suspend them from a branch or place flush against a wall.
- Most hold only one cake of suet, so you may need several feeders to attract the most birds. Cage feeders are not usually equipped with perches, and so are not easy for robins or starlings to feed from.
- A modified version in which the suet must be eaten while hanging upside-down keeps many other undesired species away. When hanging these feeders include a baffle, or a squirrel may help himself to the whole feeder!
Seed feeders with suet holders or platform feeders
- These are much easier for other birds to access. They usually have either a landing platform or perches, so robins and starlings can use them. Squirrels are also quick to learn how to steal suet from these feeders, especially if they aren’t hung with baffles.
- The other method of feeding suet is much simpler, but a bit messy. You hang a small log with approximately one-inch holes drilled into it from a tree. The holes are packed with suet.
- This is the most natural feeding method for most insect eaters, and may entice some of the more shy birds to try it out. The main downside is that the holes must be repacked by hand, which can be rather messy. But the first time you see a little upside-down downy woodpecker pecking at the log you’ll decide it’s worth it.
Now that you know what suet is and how to feed it, give it a try. You’d be amazed how many new and wonderful birds it will bring to your backyard. All you need to do is give them what they need, and they will provide you with hours of company and joy!