We are on a mission to educate the world on safe suet. Joking. But its super sad for me reading home-made recipes for suet because nearly all of them are dangerous for birds. Reality is fats can get on birds' feathers and harm their ability to stay dry and warm. This is deadly in the winter. And its why feeding soft or liquid fats, or fats that melt easily at low temperatures is very unsafe. This rule leaves out all but true suet, as veg fats and animal fats (veg oils, subcutaneous fats, bacon drippings) melt at low points. Making soft fats hard with ingredients (that the birds don't eat like wheat or oats) is not a solution. True suet is the fat around the loin of a cow. It is used in commercial suet because it is nearly dry, thus it crumbles when you handle it. Peanut butter melts at 104 degrees, so adding it to the suet gives you a solid, low melt, hard fat that is safer to feed birds (whom are landing close to these fats). Note, even in winter fats can melt from the heat of the sun on them. Test: pinch your suet between two fingers. Does it squish? Toss it and go for a no melt beef suet that has no or very little veg oil in it.
Test 2: handle the suet and now wash your hands. What does it take, how hard is it for you to get that off? Takes dish soap likely and two washings. That true for birds, and in wildlife rescue that is what we have to do to get fats off of birds who have been dirtied on feeders. yes, you can make your own. Use only true suet and if the butcher tries to tell you beef fat is suet, tell them you know better and ask for groin only. If it crumbles and is nearly dry - its suet. Recipes that require a lot of dry ingredients are likely using a soft fat that they have to try to hold together. Avoid. And never ever - please - simply hang out suet balls or logs or wreaths uncaged! Just think...any bird landing on that will get the fats on their feet.
Birds use their feet to preen (groom) their head feathers, the fats WILL get on them. And then it will spread to other feathers. Birrrr...that means a cold, and likely wet head on a bird. And cold spells doom to birds as it leads to hypothermia and eventual starvation. Now for those who hummpf at this and think they have 'never seen this' well, you have likely rarely seen sick birds at all. Sick birds are vulnerable to predation and thus do their best to hide. Sick birds die alone, cold, and in despair far from our view. So yes, feed suet...safe, beef suet with good ingredients like seeds, some no melt with peanut butter is ok and great actually. Test your suets...they should be hard. Have fun feeding. (Picture is from my friend Jane Tibbetts, songbird photographer extraordinaire! She's made a safe, very neat log feeder for the suet. Thanks Jane!
Native Bird Care's is celebrating its 10th anniversary! Our main focus is song, shore, and waterbirds. We offer specialized care and facilities for these extraordinary birds..