Dec 21, 2015 | Featured Web Article

Suet Dough in Moderation

Eastern bluebirds are just one species that will gorge on suet dough when it is offered at a backyard feeding station.
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When winter weather comes we all want to do everything we can to provide for our backyard birds. But sometimes our offerings can be too much of a good thing. High-energy foods such as suet dough are super attractive to a wide array of birds. In fact, suet dough and other high-fat-content foods can attract many species, such as creepers, warblers, mimids, bluebirds, and even thrushes, which are shyer woodland species that do not normally visit our bird feeders. It’s important that we don’t over feed fatty foods because too much of a good thing can cause health problems for our beloved birds. Imagine if all you ate all day, every day, was a constant stream of fast-food hamburgers—you’d soon experience health consequences. Birds that overindulge in suet dough can exhibit gout-like symptoms in their feet and legs. An over-abundance of mealworms in the diet of bluebirds has been shown to cause them to over-reproduce—with double the normal number of broods in the nesting season. The best way to offer these popular foods is in moderation: a handful in the morning and another handful at night. This frequency and volume benefits the birds without causing unfortunate side effects.

Looking for a good recipe for suet dough? Check out this one by Julie Zickefoose »

About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson, III, was the team captain for Watching Backyard Birds from its inception 23 years ago through his death on March 25, 2019. So much of what he wrote is timeless and remains informative, helpful, and inspiring.

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  • I live in Southeastern Massachusetts. Four "orphaned" very young poults (males) showed up in my yard about a year ago. They have been around all year. I do feed them cracked corn, and they come when I call for them. I don't want to over- domesticate them, but they do recognize me as the lady that brings food. They roost in the big oak trees at night. I have a 1 acre lot, with many acres of protected forest out back and a pond on the property.Lately, during mating season, I have had hens in the yard too. We've counted as many as 7 Toms and hens, but today, had just the one stalwart (a very robust Tom) that comes everyday. One of the Toms that has recently made an appearance is wounded, limping with an obvious predator wound. The local wildlife experts say he should make a full recovery, and that he's best left to recover with his flock.I find them to be interesting and beautiful birds.
    by Heather Cole, Mon, 06 Apr 2020
  • You have to put food in it.
    by Truckee Man, Mon, 06 Apr 2020
  • Love listeningto both songs and calls from birds in our woody neighborhood. The two types of birds I immediately recognize are the cardinals and the chickadees. Yesterday afternoon too, I heard a woodpecker. Then it’s time to check the birdfeeders and the birdbath. Then In no time at all the cardinals and chickadees arrive, as if they had been watching me. As it gets busier around the feeders, I also hear thé screeching of the blue jays. I even saw a couple of robins checking out our lawn....spring has arrived as the last pat gesofisticeerde snow and ice melt away.
    by louisabt, Sun, 08 Mar 2020
  • I am wondering about existing nests for Phoebes. I have two outdoor aisle entries to my barn and there are old Phoebe nests up. They ignore them each year and build new nests adjacent to the old, but space is running out. Should I knock down the old nests so they can rebuild?
    by [email protected], Sun, 02 Feb 2020
  • Just wondering, should we put anything in the bottom of the box...twigs, clippings, leaves....anything at all?
    by Hebb, Tue, 28 Jan 2020