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What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness. ~John Steinbeck

Updated: Mar 26, 2019

Yesterday I discussed the importance of a fresh water source for your winter feathered friends, and today I'd like to continue along those lines and talk a bit about suet.

This little Chickadee is enjoying part of a tasty morsel left out by some kind souls that feed the birds in the winter at a local pond I visit. In fact, I have no doubt that this very suet feeder kept an Oven-bird alive a couple of winters ago when it found itself stranded all winter in the cold climate of Massachusetts.

Winter is not an easy time for birds. Birds are warm-blooded animals which means that they must maintain their body temperature within a certain range even when the temperature around them changes. To maintain their high metabolic rate, birds must eat a diet rich in energy -such as insects and seeds. In the colder climates during the winter, those insects are just about non-existent!

Suet is a great way to help replace some of those insects. It is an important source of fat and protein for our little friends in the colder climates during the winter. Not only will it help them maintain their body heat and energy levels, it is also a great way to attract Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches! (Of course, Starlings are also attracted to suet, and if you'd prefer not to encourage them devouring your suet cakes, you can put your suet in an "upside down" suet cage which will make it more difficult for birds like Starlings to cling to the cage and eat.)

There are many recipes out there for homemade suet (does anyone have a favorite that they'd like to share?), or you can buy premade suet cakes from your local bird food supplier. The advantage of the pre-made suet cakes is that you can use them year-round without the worry of the suet going rancid (although you can render home-made suet to make it last a bit longer). But not all premade suet cakes are created equal. To make sure you are getting the highest fat suet, the first ingredient listed should always be rendered beef. I like the second ingredient listed to be nuts - for a great source of protein.

Hang your feeders near a bush or perching spot as most birds prefer to "survey" the feeding area ahead of time. Once you have your suet hung, sit back and enjoy the show. It won't be long until you have a wide variety of customers waiting in line at your cafe!

Black-capped Chickadee

Horn Pond - Middlesex County, MA

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