If you want to increase the number of birds that visit your backyard, consider putting out suet cakes. Suet is a high-energy food source made from beef fat. Suet cakes or homemade batches attract a wide variety of birds, including woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, blue jays, nuthatches, and wrens. Cardinals, catbirds, and some warblers will also occasionally visit a suet feeder.
Place suet cakes in hanging metal cages or use small amounts in wooden logs. These feeders should be placed near natural sources of cover to maximize bird use. If you only have seed feeders, you will find that suet stations are easier to clean and maintain. However, like all bird feeders, sources of suet will be raided by squirrels and undesirable birds (starlings).
My primary interest in putting out suet feeders was to attract woodpeckers. But, over time, I’ve come to appreciate the other feathered visitors that flock to the cakes. Recently, I also put out mealworms for the first time. I hope to attract insect-eating birds that don’t often visit other feeders.
As any backyard bird watcher knows, there is a certain amount of trial and error when it comes to feeding. Some birds are attracted to your backyard year-round, others stay away. Suet will attract a dependable roster of avian visitors. Google homemade suet recipes, including vegetarian varieties, if you wish to make your own.
In a perfect world, birds would not need supplemental food sources. They would secure sustenance exclusively through native plants, insects, and other ready-to-eat critters. However, if you lack the time or the interest to create a bird-friendly garden, putting out clean feeders is an easy way to attract birds to your backyard.
(Lee Emmons, of Newcastle, is an amateur naturalist and former educator. He can be reached at email@example.com.)