Suet is a popular food item for a variety of birds. Birds that enjoy it include blue jays, chickadees, nuthatches, warblers, woodpeckers, and wrens.
Suet is the hard fat around beef kidneys or loins. Animal fat is easily digested by birds and gives them a great boost especially during the winter months when food may be scarce. It is a high-energy food that can actually be offered to your feathered friends year-round.
If you choose to offer suet during the summer months, be sure that it is not raw suet. Raw suet can spoil quickly if temperatures are above freezing and generally, temperatures consistently over 90 degrees will cause it to melt. A suet that has been “rendered” can work during the summer but note that it may affect the consistency of your suet. Rendering involves melting the suet and removing impurities which helps it to keep for a longer period of time.
If it does get soft or melts, it can affect the waterproofing on a bird’s feathers and birds will typically not feed on suet that has melted or become compromised by the elements. Another concern is that melted suet can coat a bird’s belly which can cause a dangerous situation during the nesting season when birds are rearing their young. A bird that has suet on its belly feathers may inadvertently coat its eggs. If the eggs are coated in the oils from suet, this can close up the tiny pours that allow the growing embryo to receive oxygen.
Suet placement will help overcome the drawbacks of spoiled or melted suet. Choose an area for your suet feeder in a shady or cooler location. If shade is not available consider adding a baffle or protective covering that will block the sun and elements.
Offering your winged guest suet cakes instead of larger suet blocks may also be an option to help prevent spoilage. Suet cakes are typically smaller portions and will help eliminate wasted suet as birds can fully consume the suet in a shorter period of time. Freezing suet cakes can also help them stay fresher longer. If you do have a block of suet, you can cut it down into smaller pieces and freeze the excess until needed.
Suet is available in numerous shapes and varieties. Suet shapes include balls, crumbles, pellets, plugs, and shreds. Balls are similar to cakes and can be used in large suet bird feeders. Crumbles and pellets are similar in that they are both bite-sized pieces which can be used in trays or platform feeders. Plugs are used for log-style bird feeders to give certain “clinging” bird types, woodpeckers for example, a more natural feeding surface. Lastly, shreds are small, thin pieces of suet that mimic the consistency and size of worms or insects. Shreds can also be served in a tray, dish, or platform feeder.
Suet also comes in various flavors. It can be mixed with fruits, insects, nuts, seeds, and even hot pepper. Some suet varieties also come in a flavor blend such as fruit and nut. If you are looking to attract a certain bird type, be sure to research what flavor the bird type prefers best.
In short, if you’re looking to add variety to your backyard feeder offerings, suet is a great addition! Remember, if you choose to use suet during the summer months, freeze your suet before placing it outside and look for a cool, shady spot to hang your suet feeder. Using suet will be a welcomed offering for many bird types that may visit your backyard and is a great supplement to any backyard bird buffet!