Using Suet to Attract Backyard Birds



Suet to Attract Backyard Birds

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Want to make your backyard a hotspot for colorful chirping birds?

Using suet is an excellent method! Let’s explore how this high-energy food source can attract a variety of common backyard birds to your outdoor space.

Key Takeaways

  • Suet is a high-energy food that attracts a variety of backyard birds and helps them maintain their energy levels during cold spells.
  • Feeding birds suet creates a bird-friendly environment and provides a safe and welcoming habitat for them to thrive in.
  • Homemade suet is a cheaper and eco-friendly option that allows for customization and control over ingredients used, and is free from preservatives and additives.
  • Placement and maintenance of suet feeders are important to attract a variety of backyard birds and ensure their health and safety.

Common Backyard Birds

You can attract a variety of common backyard birds by offering suet in your backyard. These birds include woodpeckers, chickadees, and cardinals. They are attracted to suet because it provides them with the necessary fat and calories they need during migration and winter. By offering suet, you can provide them with high-energy food that is perfect for their high metabolic rate, especially during prolonged cold spells.

If you want to attract even more birds to your backyard, you can also consider bird-friendly backyard landscaping. This can include planting native trees and shrubs, providing water sources such as bird baths, and offering other types of bird food like seeds and fruit.

By creating a bird-friendly environment, you can not only attract more birds but also provide a safe and welcoming habitat for them to thrive in. Bird watching tips can also be helpful in identifying and learning about the different species of birds that visit your backyard.

The Power of Suet in Attracting Birds

What is Suet?

At its most basic, suet is a form of fat that comes from the area around the kidneys and loins of cattle or sheep. After being rendered, or purified, it becomes a dense, energy-packed substance that is remarkably high in calories. Traditionally, it’s used in cooking, particularly in British cuisine for dishes like pudding and mince pies. However, it also serves as a significant source of sustenance for various bird species.

In the context of bird feeding, suet is often mixed with additional ingredients, such as seeds, grains, nuts, and dried fruits, to make it even more nutritious and appealing. The mixture is then typically shaped into blocks, cakes, balls, or plugs to fit a variety of suet feeders available in the market.

Why Birds Love Suet

Birds are drawn to suet due to its high energy content. It provides them with the much-needed calories they need to maintain their high metabolism. This is particularly crucial during the colder months when other food sources become scarce and birds need to generate more heat to survive the chilling temperatures.

Many birds, especially those that typically eat insects, grubs, and spiders, are attracted to suet. It’s an excellent substitute during the winter season when these invertebrates are not readily available. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays, and starlings are among the species that enjoy suet the most.

In addition to providing necessary nutrients, suet also helps birds maintain their feather condition. This is vital for their survival, as good feather condition aids in efficient flight and acts as an insulating layer against the cold.

Feeding Birds Suet

While suet can be fed to birds year-round, it’s exceptionally beneficial during the fall and winter when natural food sources are less abundant. When placing suet in your garden, ensure it’s in a safe, quiet location, preferably near trees or shrubs, which provide birds with a sense of security and a quick escape route from predators.

It’s also important to keep hygiene in mind. Regularly clean your suet feeders to prevent the spread of diseases. In warm weather, use a specially designed, commercially available “no-melt” suet, which is less likely to go rancid.

Here are some tips for suet feeder placement and maintenance:

  • Hang the suet feeder from a tree branch or pole at least 5 feet off the ground to protect birds from predators.
  • Place the feeder in a visible and accessible location, preferably near a tree or shrub where birds can perch and rest.
  • Keep the feeder away from windows to prevent birds from flying into them.

Suet feeder maintenance:

  • Clean the feeder regularly with hot water and soap to prevent mold and bacteria growth.
  • Replace the suet when it becomes rancid or shows signs of mold or mildew.
  • Use an upside-down suet feeder or squirrel baffle to keep unwanted birds and animals from eating all the suet.

Homemade Suet Recipe

Creating homemade suet is a fun and fulfilling project that not only allows you to offer high-quality nutrition to your feathered friends, but also to customize the ingredients to attract specific bird species. Here is a simple recipe to get you started:


  • 1 cup of lard or beef fat
  • 1 cup of peanut butter
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 3 cups of cornmeal
  • Optional: 1 cup of birdseed, dried fruits, or chopped nuts


  1. In a large pan, melt the lard or beef fat over low heat until it becomes a liquid. Be careful not to overheat it.
  2. Stir in the peanut butter until the two are well combined. The heat will help soften the peanut butter and make it easier to mix.
  3. Slowly add in the flour and cornmeal, stirring continuously to ensure the mixture is well combined.
  4. Once the mixture is uniform, you can add any optional ingredients like birdseed, dried fruits, or chopped nuts. Mix thoroughly to distribute these evenly throughout the mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture into a mold. You can use anything from a cake tin to a square plastic container. If you plan to use a commercial suet feeder, try to find a mold that matches its size.
  6. Allow the mixture to cool and solidify. This can be done at room temperature, or you can place the mixture in the refrigerator or freezer to speed up the process.
  7. Once the suet is solid, it can be cut into appropriate sizes for your feeder or simply popped out of the mold if it’s already the right size.

Not only is homemade suet cheaper than store-bought options, but it also allows for customization and control over the ingredients used. The benefits of homemade suet are numerous. By using fresh, quality ingredients, you can provide birds with a high-energy food source that will help them thrive.

Homemade suet is free from preservatives and additives found in store-bought options. Making your own suet is also an eco-friendly choice, as it reduces waste and eliminates plastic packaging. With this recipe, you can attract a variety of backyard birds and provide them with the best possible nutrition.

Suet Feeders and Products

Choosing the right suet feeder and products can greatly enhance your bird feeding experience and can attract a wider variety of bird species to your yard. Here are some of the common suet feeder types and products you can consider:

1. Traditional Suet Cage Feeders: These are the most common type of suet feeders. They are usually made of coated wire mesh and designed to hold one or two suet cakes. The small mesh size allows birds to peck at the suet while preventing larger animals from taking large chunks. These feeders are easy to use and clean, and provide good visibility of the suet for the birds.

2. Upside Down Suet Feeders: These feeders are designed with the opening at the bottom, requiring birds to feed upside down. This design discourages less agile birds, such as starlings and grackles, and is more likely to attract birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees who are comfortable feeding in this position.

3. Suet Ball Feeders: These feeders hold small suet balls or nuggets instead of larger cakes or blocks. They often resemble a mesh bag or tube and are a good choice if you want to feed suet but have limited space.

4. Suet Log Feeders: These feeders are cylindrical and have holes drilled into them for suet plugs. They provide a more natural feeding experience for the birds, as they mimic the action of pecking insects from tree bark.

Suet Products:

Suet comes in a variety of forms, including cakes, balls, plugs, and crumbles. Each form fits into a specific type of feeder.

1. Suet Cakes: These are the most common form of suet available commercially. They usually come in a size that fits most standard suet cage feeders.

2. Suet Balls or Nuggets: These are smaller and fit into tube or bag feeders. They are often mixed with seeds and grains, and are a favorite among a wide variety of birds.

3. Suet Plugs: These are designed to fit into suet log feeders. They mimic the natural feeding habits of woodpeckers and other birds who enjoy pecking into the holes of trees.

4. Suet Crumbles or Pellets: These are perfect for ground-feeding birds. You can sprinkle them on a platform feeder or directly on the ground.

5. No-Melt Suet: This is a specially formulated suet that holds up better in warmer temperatures. It’s perfect for feeding suet during the hot summer months without worrying about it melting and creating a mess.

FAQS on Feeding Suet to Birds

At what times during the year should suet be provided to birds?

Suet is a highly beneficial bird food that can be offered throughout the year. However, it is especially crucial during the winter months when other food sources are harder to find. During this time, the high caloric content of suet helps birds maintain their energy levels and body heat.

Is there a risk of homemade suet spoiling?

Yes, there is a risk of homemade suet spoiling, especially in warmer temperatures. The heat can cause the suet to go rancid, making it unhealthy for birds. To avoid this, during the warmer months, consider using ‘no-melt’ suet varieties that are specifically designed to withstand higher temperatures.

Can I substitute animal fat with vegetable fat in suet?

While vegetable fat can be used to make suet, animal fat is generally preferred. The reason is that animal fat provides a higher energy content which is more beneficial to birds, making it a more natural and nutritious option.

Are there certain bird species that won’t eat suet?

While suet is enjoyed by a wide variety of birds, particularly those that are insectivorous, some seed-eating birds like Sparrows and Finches might show less interest in it. These birds may prefer seed-based feeders, but individual bird behaviors can vary.

How often should suet be replaced in a bird feeder?

It’s a good practice to replace suet in a bird feeder about every two weeks, or whenever it is all eaten. Regular replacement ensures that the suet stays fresh and palatable, thus encouraging birds to continue visiting your feeder. In warm weather, more frequent replacement may be necessary to prevent spoilage.

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