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Feeding Suet to Birds

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on March 11, 2011

I recently put in a new post for my bird feeder and hung the suet feeder from it as well.  I can see the birds from my study window.  Suet is basically beef kidney fat, which sounds really gross to me.  Judging from the wide range of birds that come to take a bite, however, they think it is wonderful.

I had always heard you should feed suet in the winter to give the birds extra calories to stay warm.  Of course, it may be 80 degrees F here in the winter, so that explanation doesn’t work.  It turns out that insect eating birds like suet because insects are essentially tubes of fat stuffed in skin.  Actual beef fat will also quickly grow rancid in the heat, and Texas has heat.

Now, though, you can get specially treated, no melt suet cakes.  Some of these, I have found, may not melt, but they don’t get eaten, either.  The birds won’t touch them.  Even the possums and raccoons will turn up their noses at the things.  You have to be pretty bad for a possum to walk away, too.

That does not mean all heat stabilized cakes are bad.  It simply means you get what you pay for.  Bargain bin suet cakes are there for a reason.  If you are going to invite guests, serve them decent fare.  What the birds enjoy most is for you and they to discover together.

Back to the possums and raccoons.  They like good suet, too.  Those little wire cages that the birds can reach their bills into and the possums and raccoons can’t are good.  Until, that is, the mammals figure out how to flip up the lid, slide the cake out, and leave.  I had to wire my lid shut.  Unless they have a pair of pliers, those possums are doing without at my house.

Do make sure the cage is securely mounted before doing that.  My parents lost cage and all at their house.  Some mammal didn’t want to share, I guess.  If you have bears, suet feeders are probably not a good idea, either.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Alan from it's not work, it's gardening! March 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I bought a case of suet in the fall and never used any. Thanks for the reminder that it’s not too late.

I’ve also found that wiring the cages shut is required. I also leave the plastic tray on the cakes sometimes to make it harder for the birds to peck the cakes into pieces. I’m not sure if this really helps, as the starlings always find and dominate the suet feeders… until the woodpeckers arrive that is. =)
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