Fifth installment in a series
In the previous two articles, we discussed foundational and tray feeders as part of the 12 Elements of a Thoughtful Bird Feeding Station. This month we cover the third element: FAT FEEDERS.
Fats are an essential part of any birds diet. They are a high-energy food source for the birds, and all the seeds we put out for them contain fats. So, with the exception of nectar feeders, just about any feeder is a “fat feeder.” However, in this case, when we talk about fats, we are referring to products specifically made from rendered beef fat, i.e., suet products. Locally, the best type of suet products are referred to as suet doughs, or no-melt suets. No-melt suet products can be fed all year as they have a relatively high melting temperature. As I write this, we are near the end of the “Great October Heat Wave” and this morning, I had House Finch and American Goldfinch on the suet cakes in my yard.
Traditionally, suet products have been square, and easily put into a cage that the birds can cling to. The cage mesh openings have come in various sizes. Locally, we have many large-headed, short-billed birds, and we have found that the best suet cage to use is one that has 1” x 1” openings. This allows them to easily get to the suet cakes.
Today, there are suet-based products in shapes other than the traditional “cake” form. The most common is the suet nugget (Jim’s Birdacious® Bark Butter Bits at the store). These are best offered loose in small dishes or trays. They can also be mixed with seed in small amounts and fed from tube or hopper feeders (too high a concentration will clog the feeder).
The Bark Butter Bits are an evolution from Jim’s Birdacious® Bark Butter. Bark Butter is a spreadable suet, so it makes almost anything a “fat feeder!” It was originally intended to be spread on tree trunks to help attract woodpeckers, nuthatches and other clinging birds. Yes, when put out like this, the squirrels can get to it! In my yard, I put chunks of it in dishes or trays that squirrels can’t get at. I also put it on a bark butter feeder that I hang under a weather guard to keep the crows away.
Wild Birds Unlimited also has suet dough cylinders. These can be placed on pin feeders used for seed cylinders (see article on foundational feeders). There are also special cages designed for these cylinders with large enough openings to allow our local birds to get at the food. The cylinders come in smaller disc-like versions called stackables. These work well on pin feeders or in the cages.
EnJOY your birds. And remember, THE JOY OF BIRD FEEDING is available in the store at $21.99. It’s a great “how to” with over 500 photographs, along with a field guide to 180 backyard birds from across the country.