Jul 7, 2021 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, April 2021

The Three Rs of Suet in Warm Weather

A rose-breasted grosbeak and an American goldfinch enjoy an offering of suet. Photo by pxfuel.com.
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Earlier this year, wildlife authorities in some states issued advisories against bird feeding or offering birdbaths, hoping to stop the spread of a mysterious disease that killed primarily common grackles, blue jays, American robins, and European starlings. Check with your state wildlife agency to see if such advisories are still in effect, and follow the guidelines for your state.

During the winter, you probably enjoyed the parade of birds at your suet feeder. But now that summer is upon us, remember that raw suet can quietly spoil in the sun's heat. Here are some tips to make summer suet feeding more enjoyable.

REDUCE: As the temperature rises and the sun shines long and hot, use a smaller suet feeder, and smaller pieces of suet. Large feeders offer more surface area where a bird can soil its feathers on melting fat—a special problem for close-clinging woodpeckers. Put out only as much suet as the birds will consume in two or three days.

REFRIGERATE: A small suet feeder can be dropped into a plastic bag and refrigerated or even frozen overnight to extend the life of the suet. This also helps to thwart raccoons and other nocturnal suet robbers.

RENDER: Before microwave ovens, rendering suet was a messy proposition. Now, it's easy and convenient to "nuke" small pieces of raw suet in minutes, pour the melted fat into a shallow, heat-resistant container, and freeze until you’re ready to use it. Rendered suet lasts longer and keeps better in heat. Spike the suet with sunflower hearts or peanut chips if you like. Commercial suet mixes, especially those labeled "no-melt," have a longer shelf and cage-life than plain suet, but avoid mixes with seeds still in their shells, or with cheap filler.

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  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021
  • This breaks my heart. God strengthen your spirit and comfort your heart.I am fortunate to be taking a vacation next month, hopefully before sky high inflation hits and I can no longer afford it.
    by Ironweeds, Fri, 27 Aug 2021