Freezing temperatures, chilly winds, snow cover and a scarcity of natural food create stress for wild birds in the winter. Longer nights and plummeting temperatures put high demand for energy on wild birds.
Full feeders and an offering of high-fat and high-protein foods are more important in the winter than any other time of the year. These foods are called heating foods because they help birds store up the energy they need to stay warm during cold nights.
Suet — the hard white fat on the kidneys and loins of livestock — is a favorite winter offering that’s accepted by more than 80 species of North American birds.
Although there is no nutritional value to preparing suet, the benefits of prepared suet include longer shelf life, a reduced chance of spoiling during warm temperatures and it is less appealing to starlings and other bird pests.
Suet is easy to work with and can be prepared simply by melting and cooling. Follow these directions to prepare your suet:
- Cut suet into chunks and run through a meat grinder.
- Melt over low heat until liquified.
- Cool in pan until solidified.
- Reheat suet a second time until liquid.
- Pour suet into molds. You can pour it over or mix it with a variety of ingredients, such as bread crumbs, sunflower seeds, crushed nuts, millet, dried fruit and oatmeal. You can also spread it over log bird feeder, pine cone or on to tree branches.
- You might also consider molding suet with your hands after it has cooled. You can pour hot suet into a mold and later remove it while it is still soft enough to manipulate to form shapes on wax paper.
After it has been prepared it can be offered in raw chunks or suspended in mesh bags or wire holders. Here are some container ideas you might use to store and serve your suet:
- Muffin tins
- Tuna fish or cat food cans
- Yogurt cups
- Cottage cheese containers
- Coconut halves
- Log bird feeder
Suet Mixture Recipe
Suet is an appealing high-energy offering for wild birds on its own. Suet mixtures just take it a step further, keeping birds interested with the added appeal of seeds and fruit.
- 1 ½ parts multigrain bread crumbs
- 1 part hulled sunflower seeds
- 1 part white millet
- ½ part dried fruit (chopped)
- 6-9 parts suet
- Dash of salt
- Melt suet.
- Cool suet.
- Remelt suet.
- As suet cools, stir in all other ingredients.
- Spoon into molds.
- Allow suet cakes to cool.
- Place in suet feeders or on trays to feed to birds.
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