Suet is a rich source of fat and calories ideal to feed backyard birds, but which birds will appreciate these treats the most?
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.
- In spring, suet helps birds refuel during migration, when it is important to reach breeding grounds as soon as possible to claim the best nesting territory. The nutritious value of suet will also help keep birds healthy so they can attract the best mates.
- In summer, birds will visit backyard feeders for suet to more easily feed hungry hatchlings, and adult birds sate their appetites more quickly at a suet feeder so they can spend more time foraging to feed their families.
- In fall, birds that eat suet quickly increase their body weight in preparation for the long migration to their wintering grounds. Resident suet-loving birds will also store body fat in preparation for winter.
By feeding suet to birds year-round, backyard birders are offering one of the most nutritious, best treats to backyard birds. Different suet blends may be better in different seasons, and steps may need to be taken to keep suet from melting in summer or to be sure it isn’t frozen solid in winter, but in any season, it can be great for backyard birds.
Species That Love Suet
Many birds enjoy suet, and while the exact birds that frequent suet feeders will vary based on local climate, geography and bird ranges, species that appreciate suet most include…
While these birds are well known for their hearty suet appetites, even more unusual birds such as warblers, buntings and hawks may nibble at suet.
Helping Even More Birds Enjoy Suet
While suet is a great food for many backyard species, it can be even greater when you take a few simple steps to make it even more attractive. When offering suet at backyard feeders…
- Use Different Shapes: Suet comes in cakes, balls, plugs and other shapes, as well as smaller crumbles, nuggets or shreds. Different birds have different feeding preferences and while some species happily peck at a large suet cake, others prefer to make off with a small bite to feed in private. If your preferred suet isn’t available in different shapes, you can soften and remold it easily, or cut it into different shapes and sizes.
- Offer Different Blends: Suet is available in many blends and flavors, from plain cakes to treats that have birdseed, bits of fruit, berries, shelled nuts or even insects mixed in. Birds will naturally take to suet blends that better represent their overall diets – insect-loving birds, for example, will love suet with insects, while birds that eat fruit will enjoy suet with mixed in fruits and berries.
- Try Different Feeders: The standard cage-style feeder is a great option, but there are many other suet feeders available as well. To entice more birds to try the treat, offer suet in small dishes or opt for an upside-down feeder that will keep larger birds from eating all the suet before smaller clinging birds get a chance to feed. For larger, hungrier flocks, use a suet feeder that can hold several cakes at once.
- Keep Suet Fresh: In the right conditions, suet cakes can last for several days (if they aren’t eaten first!), and it is important to be sure suet is not spoiling or becoming rancid. Mold, fungus and bacteria that can grow on suet can be dangerous to birds, and birds will not eat spoiled suet. Instead, strong odors from bad suet will attract pests and unwanted guests that can damage feeders and scare birds away.
- Use Baffles as Needed: Birds are not the only backyard wildlife that goes crazy for suet – squirrels, mice, raccoons and even bears will also happily make a meal from suet cakes. To minimize their snacking opportunities and maximize the suet available for birds, use strong baffles above and below feeders, or take suet inside and out of reach at night but put it out each morning for birds.
Suet is an excellent food for backyard birds, and once you understand just how much birds need suet year-round and how versatile it can be at a backyard feeding station, you won’t hesitate to always have it as part of your birdie buffet.