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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