Updated: Mar 19
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. Want to learn more about feeding birds? Subscribe to our site for weekly opportunities to learn!
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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.
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
This feeder is budget-friendly and effective. Don't 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...
Best Large Suet Feeder: Birds Choice 2-Cake Pileated Suet Feeder
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.
Squirrel-proof Double Suet Feeder
We have success using a larger cage to deter raccoons and bears, but this small cage should work fine against squirrels.
Nature's Way Upside-down Suet Feeder
This feeder can deter squirrels, though it may not prevent them entirely! It is also beneficial to deter starlings and unwanted sparrows.
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.
Vertical Suet Log: Pine Tree Farms 2-Pack Suet Feeder
Horizontal Suet Log: Kettle Moraine Upside Down Suet Log
Between these feeders, the upside-down feeder is intriguing, as it can prevent starlings and other unfavorable species from using the feeder. While I typically feed birds on a budget, having a more natural suet feeder would be a win for taking photos at 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 (Amazon). 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 Overall 'Natural' Suet Cakes
Budget-friendly Suet Recommendation
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.
Downy Woodpecker on Homemade Suet Log Feeder flickr photo by Trisha Shears, used under a Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.