Sunday, January 27, 2013

Suet Suits Them

We are really in the coldest, leanest days of winter this week in Georgia and the birds are hungry. Most of the berries are gone, and insects are hiding too. Birds use a lot of energy just looking for food. Many of you know that I don’t advocate feeding the birds a lot, but even I feel compelled to help during this time. Plus they are fun to watch.

Pine warbler and downy woodpecker enjoy suet
Suet provides essential nutrients and calories that birds need, especially when insect protein is not as available. Birds that visit suet feeders include some of the same birds that would visit a summer seed feeder: titmice, woodpeckers, chickadees, wrens and nuthatches. But you also attract some different birds: warblers and bluebirds both enjoy suet in the winter. 

You can buy suet cakes and suet cake holders at bird food stores, pet stores and even grocery stores. It is probably the most inexpensive way to feed the birds. The holders are usually wire cages which keep the cakes safely away from critters like squirrels. Of course some crumbs will fall to the ground and ground feeding birds like cardinals scoop them up.

This cardinal cleans up the crumbs
You can make your own suet and that is what I decided to do this week. My friend Parrie was telling me that birds love peanut butter so much, so I found a recipe that called for equal parts lard and peanut butter to form the base. I also added corn meal (I heard it makes it more crumbly to suit small birds), raisins, a bird seed mix with sunflower seeds and peanuts, and oatmeal.

You can customize your suet based on what birds you like to attract. Some birds like fruit (raisins, blueberries, dried apple bits), others like peanuts, and still others like seeds (sunflower seeds, millet, cracked corn). I’m going to see how this batch works and then decide how to change it. I put raisins in this batch to encourage more bluebirds. Caution: lard melts very quickly and then starts to smell; be sure to stay with it and add the peanut butter right away to smooth out the smell in the kitchen.
The finished product - one for me and one for Parrie!

Store extra suet cakes in the freezer to keep them fresh. Spoiled bird seed or suet is dangerous to birds.

Bluebird eats crumbs too

Whatever you do for the birds, remember to keep a source of fresh (unfrozen) water for them.

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