Originally Published: October 3, 2008 10:31 p.m.
The month of October is when I recommend putting out your suet feeders. Why is October a good time to do this? First, several species of birds preferring a diet of suet are winter residents, and arrive during the month of October. Secondly, suet holds up better during cooler months. Suet is considered a high-energy food source for wild birds, and in winter this is critical. The advantage to providing suet is that you will attract a wider variety of birds to your yard. If you only feed seed in your yard, then you will only attract seed-eaters. By providing suet, you will also attract insect-eating birds to your feeding area.What types of birds are attracted to suet? The most common suet-eater in the Prescott area is the tiny little Bushtit. Bushtits love suet! In the fall and winter months, other common suet eaters are Bewick's Wrens, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers.Folks living in areas with an oak/chaparral habitat, and in more heavily forested areas who use suet, will enjoy the most success in attracting a wide variety of birds. Species such as White-breasted Nuthatches, Pygmy Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees, Bridled and Juniper Titmice, and several different kinds of woodpeckers all love suet. If you live in a grassland habitat, putting up a suet feeder will not be that beneficial as there are not a lot bird species in this habitat that are suet eaters. A suet feeder in Forest Trails or Timberridge is going to get a lot more action than a suet feeder in Coyote Springs or Chino Valley.What exactly is a suet cake made out of? The base ingredient is rendered beef fat. Manufacturers of suet cakes mix in with the melted beef fat different ingredients such as sunflower chips, peanut pieces or peanut butter. Other examples of ingredients used in making good quality suet cakes include almonds, insects, blueberries, raisins and nuts. When I was a boy I would get suet at the meat counter at the grocery store. The butcher would dig around in the bone barrel and retrieve a slab or two of beef fat - for free! It is difficult nowadays to get suet from the grocery store. Many people make their own suet recipe, using either lard or Crisco, and they mix in chunky peanut butter, oatmeal, cornmeal, flour, sugar, a dash of salt, and perhaps dried fruit such as raisins and maybe a handful of different kinds of tree nuts. The possibilities are endless. Is one suet mixture better than another? A recent survey showed that nine out of 10 birds preferred... just kidding! Actually wild birds do have preferences, and our experience is that the sunflower heart suet cake is preferred over all of the other flavors we sell. Inexpensive suet mixtures, like many commercial seed blends, are filled with filler ingredients. Wild birds tend to shun these inexpensive suet cakes containing millet and corn, and prefer suet cakes with more 'premium' ingredients such as those mentioned earlier - peanuts, sunflower hearts, peanut butter, and even dried mealworms and crickets!On a different note, White-crowned sparrows are back. They are a ground feeder and they are especially fond of white-proso millet. The return of our fall birds heralds in the return of our annual seed sale. We hope to see you soon. Happy Birding!If you have specific questions or issues related to wild birds which you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit them to Jay's Bird Barn, 1046 Willow Creek Road, Suite 105, Prescott, AZ 86301 or log onto www.JaysBirdBarn.com and click on Ask Eric, which will link you with my e-mail address Eric@JaysBirdBarn.com. Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn and has been an avid birder for over 40 years.