Sep 14, 2016 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, October 2016

Suet Tips and Tricks

Downy woodpeckers are just one of many backyard bird species that are very attracted to suet.

Suet is the dense, white fat that collects around the kidneys and loins of cattle. It is often sold in grocery stores at the meat counter—raw. It's fine—and very affordable—to offer chunks of raw suet to birds, but it spoils quickly, so plan to offer small bits often. Raw suet melts easily, too, so in bright sun, it can become a putrifying mess.

Commercial suet blocks have been "rendered," or melted, poured into a mold, and left to harden, which gives them a longer shelf life. Birdseed, nuts, or dried fruit is sometimes mixed in with the suet during the rendering as an added treat for the birds. Be careful of suet blocks that contain milo or millet. Such a combination proves irresistible for starlings.

Some people buy raw suet at the grocery store and render it at home, adding peanut butter, cornmeal, chopped peanuts, raisins, or sunflower hearts. It's easy to do (use low heat and a sturdy pan), but prepare for a stinky kitchen. Many bird species eat suet, including some you might need to look up in a field guide to identify. All the regular seed-eaters, including chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and woodpeckers, eat suet, as well as wrens, sapsuckers, some warblers, orioles, creepers, and others.

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  • How long do other seeds stay fresk? Sunflower seeds? Millet? Safflower?
    by Sue, Sat, 06 Feb 2021
  • I understand that the ducks' blood vessel arrangement in their feet is to provide the benefits of the counter-current heat exchanger mechanism; returning cold venous blood from the feet is warmed by the descending warm arterial blood, preventing excess heat loss by the feet and avoiding cold blood from chilling the body. This means that the feet are cold, not warm.
    by Frank Barch, Sat, 02 Jan 2021
  • 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