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 have the same situation. The feeder is attached to the middle of a large picture window that goes ceiling to floor w/ no ledge or sill for animals to climb or balance. Yet every morning all the sunflower seeds have been cracked open and hulls left. Any ideas what it is?
    by Liza Fox, Sun, 15 Nov 2020
  • I have a bird feeder that sticks to my window and I've been hearing noises against the window at night right now its going on. But whatever it is it is aware of me. And when I get to window it leaves.I can't imagine a squirrel or mouse or possom being able to get at it. ...So as I was reading this article im to assume no bird eats at night. Or no birds will eat at night. Why is that? Then im also thinking of a sinereo that could a lost confused bird eat at night. This eating thing is watching meI turn out the light go there noise dissappears..Thank you.
    by Nosferatu, Thu, 05 Nov 2020
  • I have metal baffles (cones) on my pole for my bird feeders. Something is still tempting them at night. What else could it be? Deer???
    by Ella Spencer Connolly, Thu, 27 Aug 2020
  • I found where he lives, then I keep him up all day by singing at full volume! Hah, that'll show the little sucker!
    by Pike Juan, Tue, 11 Aug 2020
  • I never knew feeding birds could be so confusing. I love watching the birds in my backyard even though I don't get a very big variety.
    by JustMyOpinion, Sun, 26 Jul 2020