Fruits and Nuts
Many of the most attractive and efficient pest insect hunting birds are also fruit eaters. Orioles and tanagers love oranges. Bluebirds, catbirds, finches, mockingbirds, orioles, robins and starlings love raisins, grapes, cranberries and currants set out on trays. Remove and discard fruit that are not eaten in a day or two before it becomes moldy and unhealthful.
Some common backyard birds develop a taste for nuts that they do not usually encounter in the wild. Among the favorites are peanut kernels, almonds, walnuts, and pecans. The nutmeats you set out may contain salt, which birds also need. Be aware that the nuts will eventually attract squirrels.
Click here for more information on Dealing With Squirrels.
Buying Suet Cakes
All birds need fat for energy. Seed-eaters get vegetable fats from nuts and seeds, insect eaters get animal fats from their prey. For birds that winter over and endure cold temperatures fat provides concentrated food energy to maintain body heat, especially when they are inactive at night. Suet and suet products provide supplemental fat to birds at the feeder.
Suet is the fat trimmed from beef by butchers. While it is no longer free from meat markets, it is still available in many at a minimal cost. A variety of commercial suet cake products are formulated from beef suet and various nuts, seeds and fruits. They are molded to fit into net bags or a standard wire suet cage. Commercial suet products generally last much longer outdoors in the weather than homemade. Replace them when the weather warms and the suet turns rancid and smelly. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees absolutely adore suet.
Making Your Own Suet Cakes
Making suet cakes for songbirds is a wonderful nature project for kids. Chop suet up or run it through a food processor, then melt it in a double boiler over low heat. Pour the melted suet into molds such as muffin tins or pie pans. When the fat cools and stiffens a bit, have the kids add other ingredients. Once the suet cakes are solid, put one out the birds in a suet cage, or fashion your own netted holder from a plastic onion bag, chicken wire or other mesh material. Store extra cakes in the refrigerator or freezer.
Ingredients for Suet: - Use your imagination and whatever is available:
|Ingredients for Suet Cakes|
|commercial bird seed||peanut butter||breakfast cereal|
|leftover hamburger||dried or fresh berries||raisins or currants|
|cornmeal||cooked rice or noodles||ground bakery products|
|old crackers||cracked corn||nutmeats|
Beef suet is probably the best fatty food for birds, but other leftover animal fats are also acceptable. Bacon drippings are excellent, but use them in winter when they will not melt as quickly.
Preparing Suet For Summer: - Use the same method as above but after it has cooled and congealed, melt it again before pouring the suet into muffin tins. Once the suet begins to thicken again, add extra ingredients. Double melting removes extra water, so the suet is less likely to melt in the summer heat. Do not hang suet in the sun.
For more information about suet cakes see the file Suet For Birds in Yardener’s Tool Shed.