To prevent bacteria from infecting your suet feeder's visitors, such as this White-Breasted Nuthatch, thoroughly clean the feeder before refilling it with a new suet cake or block.
Suet bird feeders attract insect eaters, such as bluebirds, Blue Jays, blackbirds, chickadees, Northern Mockingbirds, nuthatches, orioles, wrens, warblers and woodpeckers. Suet is essentially beef fat mixed with tasty treats, such as bird seed, insects, fruit and nuts. It can be offered year-round, but it does melt (and will go rancid) in warmer climates unless you purchase a "no melt” commercial variety.
You can make suet yourself by buying suet (beef fat from around the kidneys) from a local butcher, melting it down and adding bird seeds or insects, and placing it in a shallow pan to cool and harden. Then cut it into suet cakes, and place it in your bird feeders.
Suet feeders are nice because they don’t need constant refilling, and they attract a variety of colorful bird species. In general, a suet feeder consists of a small wire cage into which you place a suet cake or block, available at garden shops, wild bird supply stores and some grocery stores.
You can make suet yourself by buying suet (beef fat from around the kidneys) from a local butcher, melting it down and adding bird seeds or insects, and placing it in a shallow pan to cool and harden.
If you want to feed solely woodpeckers and other clinging birds (rather than European Starlings), then use an upside-down suet feeder to discourage the unwanted bird species from feeding.
Before refilling the feeder with a new suet cake or block, take time to clean the bird feeder. Thoroughly rinse the feeder with hot water, and let it air-dry completely before replacing the suet. You want to prevent bacteria from infecting your suet feeder’s visitors.
If you’re into recycling, you can load suet into mesh onion or orange bags, on which woodpeckers can cling while eating. You also can stuff suet into holes drilled into a post or log, or stuff it into the bark of a tree. Woodpeckers will use a suet bird feeder with a "tail prop” at the bottom, making it easier for them to balance while they feed.
Want to keep the squirrels out of your feeder? Squirrel-proof suet bird feeders are available, as is commercial suet that includes hot peppers — great for the birds, maybe not so fun for the furry guys.
Looking for more on bird feeders?
Hopper Bird Feeders
Window Bird Feeders
Jelly Bird Feeders
Globe Bird Feeders
Nyjer or Thistle Bird Feeders
Tube Bird Feeders
Excerpted from "Feeder Facts” in "Popular Birding Series: Backyard Birding,” published by BirdChannel.com publisherI-5 Publishing LLC.