Suet feeders hold cakes of fat embedded with various seeds, fruits, and insects. They are great for attracting a variety of birds, including woodpeckers and nuthatches!
Selecting the right suet feeder can lead to an explosion in bird diversity at your feeders! After selecting your suet feeder, placing it in a proper location will offer an enticing option to your favorite birds. Locating a suet feeder near mature trees and heavy cover provides woodpeckers and nuthatches the chance to escape from predators when disturbed.
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What is suet and how do I use a suet feeder?
Suet, in the traditional sense, is the raw, hard fat from a cow or sheep. However, in birdwatching, suet is often used as a way to attract birds by combining rendered beef suet, nuts, berries, insects, and/or fruit. A suet feeder is usually a metal cage structure that holds the suet bricks, and the cage allows small birds and mammals to pick the suet cake apart without carrying the entire brick away.
Using a suet feeder is a great way to provide fats to many species of birds during the winter. Generally, suet is not a great option during the warmer months, as many suets will melt.
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Which Suet Feeder is Best?
Let's cut straight to the fat here... pause for laughter... If you spend more than $5 on a suet feeder, you have been had. This recommendation is easy because there is nothing complicated about a cage that holds a chunk of fat.
Best Overall Suet Feeder: C&S EZ Fill Suet Basket
The MekkaPro Suet Feeder is budget-friendly and effective. Do not be had. Be simple. Do you need more description? It is a cage that opens simply and closes simply. It doesn't prevent bears, squirrels, or raccoons, but not much does.
The Best Large Suet Feeder
However, if you have a large bird feeding budget, double up on the suet amount you offer per feeder! The only way to attract larger woodpeckers is to give them stability with where they can sit and feed.
Best Large Suet Feeder: Birds Choice 2-Cake Pileated Suet Feeder
Have Pileated Woodpeckers swarmed your tiny suet cage feeders? You need something more substantial. The 2-Cake Pileated Suet Feeder can hold up to such a hefty task and all woodpeckers will appreciate the extra space.
If you have a lot of large woodpeckers visiting your feeder, you may want a larger suet feeder. This feeder holds two cakes and provides more room to large woodpeckers like the Pileated Woodpecker. You can hang this feeder, or use the large keel to attach it to a platform feeder or solid post. It is made from recycled poly lumber, so it will have a long lifespan. Plus, being made from recycled materials makes us all feel good, right? Regardless of the size, each suet feeder will attract an amazing variety of backyard birds.
The Best Squirrel-proof Suet Feeders
Keeping squirrels off of suet feeders can be a challenge. What do we do here at Flocking Around? Our first effort is to use our favorite anti-squirrel powder. What is it? Learn more here! If that fails, you need to consider a larger cage over the suet.
Best Squirrel-proof Suet Feeder: MekkaPro Double Suet Feeder
We have had success using a larger cage to deter raccoons and bears, but this small cage should work fine against squirrels. Check out the MekkaPro Double Suet Bird Feeder!
Deter Starlings on Your Suet Feeder: Nature's Way Upside-down
This feeder can deter squirrels, though it may not prevent them entirely! It is also beneficial to deter starlings and unwanted sparrows. Check out Nature's Way Squirrel-Proof Feeder!
Buy a Suet Log Feeder
If you are handy, consider making a suet log (see below). However, if you are not handy, there are several suet logs available for purchase. A suet log is a fairly simple concept. It uses natural products like downed branches and logs and turns them into a feeder that a nuthatch or woodpecker could still cling to.
Best Vertical Suet Log: Birds Choice Suet Log
Our favorite suet log is a recycled plastic log from Birds Choice. Non-climbing birds struggle with the smoother surface of recycled plastic.
The plastic log feeder can prevent starlings and other unfavorable species from using the feeder.
Build Your Own Suet Log Feeder
Suet feeders can be fairly easy to build! With a few simple steps, you build something like what is pictured below.
Find a downed tree or branch that is small to medium in diameter
Cut the log to a length of 12" or less
Drill 3-6 1 to 2" diameter holes in various places on the log
Hang your new log feeder
Which suet should I buy?
If you are unable to make your own suet, the options available can be overwhelming. Previously, I have used C&S Suet cakes that I buy in bulk. Specifically, I was using the Orange Suet Cake 12-pack. However, I have recently attempted to switch to a suet cake that does not use artificial flavoring. Does artificial flavoring harm birds? We simply do not have a definitive answer. But, if I can find a cake that works without artificial flavoring, then I will use it. And I have. From the depths of Amazon, I present to you the Heath Premium Crafted Suet Cakes. There are multiple flavors, but I am partial to the citrus cake. Word of WARNING. If you have been using 'suet dough' instead of real suet, then you will be in for a mess. Real suet is oily, melts easily, and can make a mess. But the birds will LOVE IT.
Best 'Natural' Suet Cakes: Heath Citrus High Energy Suet
Our Favorite Suet: C&S Orange Delight Suet Dough
While we are unsure if artificial flavoring has a detrimental effect on birds, we do know the C&S Orange Delight Suet Dough is hammered by over TEN bird species in our backyard alone. Here are the species we have found pigging out: Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Steller's Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Dark-eyed Junco, Western Tanager, Bullock's Oriole, and Wild Turkey.
Attract Birds with a Native Plant Garden!
A growing trend in North America is to take the 40+ million acres of turfgrass and turn it back into native plants and habitat. There are a number of organizations involved in this, but the National Audubon Society is at the forefront of the movement. Native plants provide natural food sources that cannot be matched by bird feeders, especially in the breeding season. Why? Insects. Nestlings need insects for healthy growth, and insects (like caterpillars) need native plants.
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