The recent winter weather has turned my mind once again to my out door creatures and what they have to endure to survive. It is easy to forget how difficult it can be for our feathered friends. Especially when the warm summer months mean plenty of seeds and tasty insect snacks.
Depending where you live though, winters can be very harsh. Living in the Western New York area I supplement my birds with seed and suet so that they have a chance over the worst temperatures and snows that winter can bring. My reward is an eco friendly outdoor space with many colorful species of birds. Late fall and early winter is not as crucial as many natural plants in this area will still have some seeds or fruit. But what do you feed these creatures when the thermometer starts to dip below the teens?
I personally feed a mixture of suet and seeds. For those who are not familiar with suet, it is a mixture of animal fat rendered from just about any animal you can think off, mixed with seeds, berries or other food stuffs that birds love. Suet is especially important to birds that winter over in a colder climate because the fat helps the bird to ward off the colder temperature by giving the bird more body fuel. Suet works like a concentrated source of fuel that the bird can burn to help keep warm. The amount of food that a bird eats per day can equal as much as a quarter of the birds weight. Because they have faster heart beats and high metabolisms, supplementation of things like suet or additional seeds can help the bird retain better overall health.
What kind of seeds you serve will attract different types of birds. Seed type will be a topic we discuss in the near future. Suet however is loved by almost all types of birds and other small mammals. For this reason it is very important that you hang suet and take some measure to deter squirrels and rats. One thing I particularly like about suet is you are only limited by your imagination of the types of suet you can use. I know many people like to make suet, I personally buy mine from a local company in the area called seedcake.com. Regardless of the method you prefer for obtaining your suet, you should seek out a type of suet that has many of the types of food stuffs the birds you want to attract would eat naturally. Cardinals love peanuts or peanut butter. Woodpeckers like suet that has a mixture of various seeds and berries, both of these breeds seem to like cranberries.
Peanuts, fruits and berries will be enjoyed by your birds. They will certainly need the additional vitamins that fruit and berries can give them. For this reason prepared suet cakes maybe the better decision since products like cherries could be difficult and expensive to obtain in some northern regions. If you decide to make your own suet do not use maraschino cherries! If you would rather just watch the birds, store bought varieties are fine. Seedcake.com. offers 12 different varieties at affordable prices. Most grocery stores carry at least one type of suet, but these can contain many types of seeds that are more filler then nutritious. Try different types of suet mixtures and see which attracts the best response. Do not be disappointed if it takes your local birds a few days to find the suet, after they do they will be back as long as the suet and seed is available. When the weather starts to warm, increase the seeds and remove the suet. Eventually allowing the birds to forge on their own till winter comes again.