For the Birds: Suet Saves Birds

Thursday, October 22, 2020


Red-breasted Nuthatch with a beakful of suet
Photo by Craig Kerns

By Christine Southwick
Townsend's Warbler in heart-shaped suet holder
Photo by Craig Kerns

Suet helps birds stay healthy and warm during our damp and often cold fall and winter months by supplying much needed healthy calories to sustain their body heat and needed energy levels.

Birds love suet and almost all of our local birds will eat it all year long. 

Hang one of the suet feeders where you can watch our resident Black-capped and Chestnut-backed chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Bewick’s Wrens, Bushtits, and Flickers, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated woodpeckers partake of this delicious and nutritious feast. 

Migrating and summer birds, like Black-headed Grosbeaks and Yellow-rumped Warblers will also peck away at these delectable treats.

Male Pileated Woodpecker
on tail-prop suet holder
Photo by Craig Kerns

Most suet comes in squares called cakes, but some are shaped into cylinders which allows different types of feeders. 

Feeders can really be your choice; simple metal cages, wooden or recycled-material prop-tail containers, or my favorite, metal-roofed containers. 

Roofs over suet cakes and cylinders prevent our wet climate from soaking the suet and provide some cover for the birds while they are eating, plus the added bonus of restricting unwanted visitors like starlings.

Suet comes in many flavors, and some birds seem to develop a preference. 

It really doesn’t matter which variety you feed them, as long as the suet has high fat and protein, and during breeding and molting season, calcium. 

Cheap suet often has filler seed that many birds don’t like — red millet is one most birds in this area won’t eat. 

Suet is easy to buy. It can be found in grocery stores, hardware stores, and specialty stores like Wild Birds Unlimited in Lake Forest Park.

Black-headed Grosbeak eating in cylinder
Photo by Craig Kerns

Squirrels like suet too, so suet placement can be important to restrict their access, or you could use suet that has red pepper in it. 

Birds will gladly eat red pepper seeds but squirrels and mammals in general avoid it.

During a sudden cold snap, suet will make the difference between some birds surviving or not, so think about hanging more than one suet feeder.

Then grab your favorite hot beverage, sit by the window and watch the fun as the birds grab beaks full of delicious suet that you have provided for them.


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