John Sterling Poole
The Ins and Outs of Suet!
One of my birds’s favorite foods is suet. One of my favorite foods to feed my birds is suet. It is a win-win! This simple feeding makes my life way easier while also providing some important nutrients for my birds. While this food is fairly common in the bird-feed section in stores, a lot of people don’t realize what it actually is and usually believe a lot of common myths about suet. Hopefully everything will be clarified by the end of this post!
Suet is congealed fat. It is found naturally within bodies, but it can be made at home! There are several recipes out in the internet, so I will let you explore to your own hearts content although this recipe from Audubon society is fairly reliable. Suet comes in square cakes, plugs, cylinders, and nuggets. This congealed fat is full of protein and energy which is why birds devour it. And believe it or not, if a bird eats congealed fat, it actually fattens the bird! Birds build fat to combat colder temperatures which is why we are pushing the fattier foods right now (tree-nuts, Barkbutter, fruits, and suet).
Since birds build fat in colder temperatures, several people have come to believe a common myth about suet. A lot of people will tell you that suet is only eaten in the winter time, but that is not true! Suet is eaten year-round by birds because birds need energy and protein year-round. Suet is also pretty helpful for the birds in both nesting season and fledging season. Another reason why people think that suet is only used in the winter time is because suet melts in about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why people stop feeding suet in the later
spring and summer times (although Charleston fluctuates in temperature all the time). The mess that this melted suet leaves behind can be rather frustrating and disheartening. There is a solution though: no-melt dough suet! This melts in 130 degrees Fahrenheit and if by some chance it gets that hot outside, we all have bigger things to worry about than our bird feeders. There usually isn’t a difference in preference from the birds, although I would recommend using just regular suet when it is colder as it sometimes contains a little bit more
protein and fat. Most packages will say if they are dough or not, so look out for that!
You can purchase just the congealed fat in a square, but you should for sure buy cakes with seeds, insects, fruits, or calcium within them. Many of them have a combination of those within them! These “flavors” are what decide what birds will come to the cakes. Nuttier cakes will bring in nut-eaters such as jays, woodpeckers, and nuthatches. Insect based cakes will bring in bluebirds, cardinals, and wrens. Experiment with the different flavors and figure out what draws in the birds that you like!
The last two reasons for why I love using suet are more for my benefit than the birds: it is easy to refill in the feeders and it is cheap. Suet typically comes in squares with a plastic frame hugging the backside of the cake. All you have to do is unwrap the cake and slide it into the suet cage. I, however, actually leave the plastic frame in the feeder because it makes it easier to get out when it needs to be replaced. It also forces the birds to eat on one side of the feeder so you can actually orient it for your viewing benefit. By leaving the plastic frame on, I never miss the birds that eat my suet. Suet is very cheap and affordable. The cakes range in price from $1-5 dollars per cake. You can usually buy them in bulk for cheaper.
I would recommend using Wild Birds Unlimited SuperSuet because it contains almost twice as much protein and energy as regular suet! It draws in all types of birds (woodpeckers and bluebirds in particular). It is what I use, and I notice a big difference! Check it out!
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