Many different backyard birds eat suet, and customizing your bird suet can make this nutritious treat even more attractive and appealing.
Plain bird suet – rendered animal or vegetable fat – can attract a wide range of birds, but adding customized ingredients to a simple suet recipe can be beneficial in several ways. If the suet contains specific ingredients for a particular type of bird, you can attract just that species to the suet feeders, and more attractive suet may be eaten more quickly and with less waste than plain suet. This helps prevent old, rancid suet from clogging your feeders and can keep predators and less desirable birds from feasting on the treat. The trick is to know what to add to your suet to attract just the birds you are interested in feeding.
What to Add to Suet
While plain suet will still attract birds and is a great source of the oil, fat and calories birds need, there are many things you can easily add to suet to make it even more attractive.
- Birdseed: Sunflower seeds and chips, millet and cracked corn are the most popular and useful seeds to add to suet.
- Nuts: Nut meats such as crushed peanuts, pecans and walnuts are popular with many birds, and peanut butter is a classic suet addition as well.
- Fruit: Fruit-loving birds will appreciate raisins, currants, dried apple chunks and blueberries added to suet in small pieces.
- Kitchen Scraps: Many types of kitchen scraps can be added to suet for easy enhancement, including crushed cereal, chips, crackers, bread crumbs and dried cheese.
- Grains: Small quantities of oats, wheat, flour and cornmeal can add bulk to suet and help it crumble more easily to feed smaller birds. These are also useful additions in warmer climates to help keep the suet from getting too soft.
- Eggshells: Dried, crushed eggshells are an excellent source of calcium that birds need, particularly during the nesting season.
- Sweeteners: Birds with a sweet tooth will appreciate honey, brown sugar or karo syrup added to a basic suet recipe.
- Pet Food: Crushed dry dog or cat food adds valuable protein to plain suet and will readily be eaten by a number of birds.
- Sand: The grit that fine sand provides is essential for birds’ healthy digestion, and all birds that regularly eat suet will still take suet with a small quantity of sand mixed in.
Attracting Specific Birds
If you want to customize your bird suet to attract specific types of birds, it is first essential to observe those birds and see which foods they prefer. Adding their favorite types of foods to the suet will make it more attractive to them while keeping other birds from monopolizing the suet feeders.
The most popular suet blends that different birds prefer include:
- Sunflower Seeds: All birds
- Fruit: Woodpeckers, bluebirds, wrens, warblers, orioles
- Scraps: Jays, nuthatches, wrens, bluebirds, kinglets, starlings
- Birdseed: Nuthatches, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, starlings
- Grain: Sparrows, doves
- Nuts: Jays, woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees, warblers
If you’re experimenting with different suet blends, it is best to make up a batch of plain suet and divide it into smaller portions to try different blends for your backyard flock. Take notes on how successful each suet recipe is, including which birds eat it and how quickly it disappears.
How to Customize Bird Suet
There are two ways to create a custom bird suet blend: either make your own suet cakes, or add ingredients to ready-made cakes.
If you make your own suet, it is easy to add different ingredients to the rendered fat as it is cooling. To keep the additions from settling out of the mixture, cool the heated fat for a few minutes before stirring in extra ingredients. While the mixture is warm it can be pressed into blocks or molded into balls if desired, or it can be allowed to cool completely before being cut into different shapes and sizes.
If you’ve never made suet before and want to start with a simpler custom blend, purchase a ready made block of suet from a bird supply store or pet store. If the suet is plain, you can melt it down completely to mix in your ingredients, or you may prefer to simply warm the suet to add a coating of additional ingredients. To soften the suet, heat it in the microwave in 10 second increments until the surface is soft and pliable, but avoid melting it completely. Press the mix-ins firmly to the suet, covering it entirely. Allow the cake or ball to cool completely before placing it in a feeder.
Many birds will readily eat suet, and creating custom suet recipes is an easy and creative way to give your favorite backyard birds a special treat.
Photo – Homemade Suet © Noël Zia Lee