Monday, June 22, 2020

Where do you put a suet feeder to attract the most birds?

Feeding suet to birds can attract an amazing variety of birds to your backyard. Many of these birds will be birds that cannot be attracted with bird seed.

To attract the most birds, suet feeders should be placed carefully. To keep the suet fresh it should be shaded from the heat of the day. You should put a suet feeder on its own pole, up high, and perhaps with a squirrel baffle. Suet can be spread on a tree trunk, but is often better served in special suet cages. Suet feeders should be be placed where they can be seen by birds and by human observers. Finally, the placement of all feeders should be so that birds do not fly into windows.

Photo of a large flock of Bushtits on a suet feeder
At least 22 Bushtits on a suet feeder!
Photo by Greg Gillson

What is suet and why feed it to birds?


First, some definitions. True suet is the hard fat around the kidneys of cows and sheep. Rendered fat is any fat from an animal melted down and re-hardened. Lard is rendered fat from pigs, often from the abdomen.

Suet that is fed to birds is any of these, often with added oats, corn meal, wheat flour, or peanut butter to keep it from melting as easily. Other additives include bird seed, nuts or fruits.

Insect-eating and omnivorous birds are especially attracted to suet feeders. Wrens, nuthatches, chickadees, creepers, kinglets, starlings, and woodpeckers are especially attracted to suet feeders. Basically, think of suet as a big, fat, juicy, grub. Yum!

But other birds, including wintering warblers will also eat suet. If the suet contains seeds or nuts, then seed-eating birds will also eat it.

Photo of Downy Woodpecker on suet feeder
Downy Woodpecker on suet cage
Photo by Greg Gillson

Block suet, suet dough, or bark butter?


Suet can be fed to birds in a number of different ways. Some of these may be new to you as they were to me!

The most common way to feed suet to birds is in pre-packaged blocks with their own suet feeder cage. The metal cage keeps larger birds and animals from simply carrying off the suet. It is easy to clean and replace the suet blocks.

The most common way to place a cage-style suet feeder is to hang it from a shepherd's hook pole. But they can also be hung from hooks under the eaves. They may hang from a tree limb.

Some suet comes in dough-like balls. These can be placed in the open on platform feeders. They may be hung in a net onion bag. There are also many differently shaped metal cages for suet balls.

Some homemade suet is called suet dough. Basically, the recipe is 1 part lard and 1 part chunky peanut butter melted in the microwave. Then 3 parts corn meal, 1 part wheat flower, and 1 part oatmeal, is mixed with it. Nuts, fruit, or bird seed may be added.

This soft suet dough, homemade or commercially bought, may also be spread into crevices of pine cones, special log feeders with holes drilled in them, or spread on the bark of trees. One of the spreadable suet doughs is trademarked as "bark butter." There are also suet nuggets with special feeders.



Visit Amazon to look at suet and feeders:

Different kinds of suet on Amazon

Different kinds of suet feeders on Amazon



Place suet feeders in the shade to keep it fresher longer


Suet will melt if it becomes too warm. Generally, suet remains solid up to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 C). If the temperature is consistently above this, it is best not to feed suet. Melted suet is messy and can coat bird's feathers.

However, no-melt suet is rendered several times to raise its melting point. The addition of corn meal or other grains help keep it held together.

To help suet last longer, place the suet feeder where it is shaded from the heat of the day. Placing suet feeders in the shade of a tree or bush will keep it cooler and fresher.

Fat will go rancid after a while, with a disagreeable odor. Thus, suet should be replaced if it hasn't been eaten in a week (less time in warm weather). So, you shouldn't place too much out at once.

Store extra suet in your freezer until you are ready to put it out for the birds.

Photo of Ruby-crowned Kinglet in a tangle of branches
Ruby-crowned Kinglets love suet!
Photo by Greg Gillson

Place suet feeders up higher from the ground


Animals other than birds will be attracted to suet. So you will want to place suet above where racoons, coyotes, and other wild animals can reach. It may be that dogs will be the biggest problem. So place the suet out of the reach of dogs and it should be good for other animals, as well.

Squirrels can jump up about 4 feet to reach a bird feeder. But they can jump about 10 feet horizontally to reach a feeder. You may need squirrel baffles to keep squirrels from climbing up from below or invading from above. Consider this if you have tree squirrels, as they love suet, too.

Place suet feeders away from the seed feeders


It is probably best to place suet feeders by themselves on their own pole. Birds that eat suet are easily startled by the flocking birds that eat seeds. Seed bird feeders are a hub of activity. Birds that eat suet tend to be more timid and wary.

If you live in a location where winters are cold and summers are hot, I have this idea. Place a bird feeder pole away from the other birds feeders. On this pole hang a suet feeder in winter and a hummingbird feeder in summer. Switch off in March and October.

We talked about squirrels already. But another pest to the suet feeder is European Starlings. To keep starlings off suet feeders you may try a couple things.

An upside-down suet feeder allows smaller birds and woodpeckers to reach the suet. But starlings can't hang and feed like these other birds.  [Upside down suet feeders on Amazon]

A baffle immediately over the suet cage can accomplish the same thing--keeping the starling from standing on top of the suet feeder to eat.

A longer chain on the suet feeder starts spinning and swinging when the starling tries to reach the suet. That keeps the starlings from getting much.


Putting suet feeders on a tree


Many of the birds that are attracted to suet feeders naturally feed in trees. Thus putting a suet feeder near, under, or in a tree is a good idea. You are placing the feeder where the birds already are!

You can place a suet feeder on a pole near or under a tree to provide shade. This gives you the most options as to placement.

You can hang a suet feeder from a branch of a tree, whether the tree is large or small.

And you can attach a suet feeder to the trunk of a tree where creepers and nuthatches and woodpeckers feed.

The one disadvantage of hanging a suet feeder on a tree is that squirrels love suet and may eat the suet instead of the birds.


Why offer birds suet? This short video tells you!



Placing suet feeders so they can be seen


If birds can't find your feeder they won't use it. So the placement of your suet feeder is very important. If you have other feeders, then you can place a suet feeder near, but not too close, to them. Suet-eating birds may be attracted to the seed feeder activity and spot the suet feeder.

You may also place suet under a tree. Many of the birds that eat suet are likely to be birds found in trees or bushes, rather than on the ground. So they'll see the feeder when they are in the these, their favorite habitat.

You may even want to make the suet feeder very obvious at first. You may place the suet conspicuously on a feeder pole right out in the middle of your open lawn. Once birds find it, you can move it to a more secluded area.

For your enjoyment, you must be able to see the suet feeder from inside your home. What window will you look out of to watch birds? Is it the living room? Kitchen? Somewhere else? Most of the bird activity will be in the early morning. What room are you in then? Will the sunlight be at the right angles so you can clearly see the birds? Give this some serious consideration.

Avoiding bird window collisions


The rule of thumb is to locate feeders more than 30 feet away from picture windows or less than 3 feet. Wait! What? Less than 3 feet away? Is that right? Yes. Let me explain.

Birds fly into windows because they don't see them. They don't understand that windows are solid. They think if you can see through it, you can fly through it. They are unable to learn about windows. Window collisions kill many, many birds.

When birds try to fly through a window they strike it head first. This causes a concussion or death.

If the feeders are placed 30 feet away from picture windows, birds are unlikely to fly toward the house if they are startled. Less than that distance and window strikes go up. That makes sense.

However, if the feeder is placed within 3 feet of the window a couple of things happen to reduce window strikes and injury.

First, birds startled from the feeder toward the window are just getting started and flying slowly. If they hit the window they will not strike as hard.

Second, when close to start with, they are likely to see their reflection and have time to veer off as they are about to run into their own reflection. They are more likely to strike the window with their body or feet than their head, if they hit the window at all.

If you have trouble with birds hitting your windows, place decals or decorations on the glass.



You may enjoy these related articles:

7 Kinds of bird feeders and the birds that like them

What type of bird seed attracts the most birds?

10 Fruits you should be feeding backyard birds

7 Secrets to feeding wild birds cheaply



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