Last Updated on June 13, 2021 by Nancie
After putting out suet in my yard successfully for many years, I have solved many suet problems. Offering suet is deceptively simple . . . if you pick the right feeder and right location. You want to keep squirrels and raccoons out of the suet and keep starlings and grackles from eating it all, while still keeping woodpeckers and other suet loving birds happy.
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
Topics in This Post:
- How to Keep Squirrels Out of Suet?
- Does Hot Pepper Keep Squirrels From Eating Suet?
- How to Keep Raccoons Out of Suet?
- How to Keep Starlings and Grackles From Eating All the Suet?
- Where to Put a Suet Feeder?
- Where to Put a Suet Feeder If I Don’t Want to Use a Pole?
- What’s With All the Commercial Suet Flavors?
- What About 100% Pure Suet?
- Should You Offer Suet in the Summer? What About “No-Melt” Suet?
- How to Choose High Quality Suet?
- What About Nutsie Seed Cakes?
- Why Use Upside-down Suet Feeders?
- What About Erva’s Starling-Proof Suet Feeder?
- How to Tweak My Cage Suet Feeder?
- How to Help Birds Find Suet Hidden in an Upside-down Suet Feeder?
- Why Don’t Birds Come To My Suet Feeder?
- Can Suet Go Bad?
- Why Buy Commercial Suet?
- More Questions About Suet?
- Some of My Other Suet Posts:
How to Keep Squirrels Out of Suet?
The best way to keep squirrels out of suet is to hang it in a suet feeder on a pole protected by barrel type squirrel or raccoon baffle. Next best way is to hang it from a branch under an Erva extra-large baffle, making sure that the suet is well outside of squirrel jumping distance from every direction. See my post on how to position a baffle on a pole for more on putting feeders on poles. (If you instead plan to hang the feeder from a branch and need to choose a hanging baffle, be sure to see my post on Best Hanging Squirrel Baffle.)
Does Hot Pepper Keep Squirrels From Eating Suet?
Yes and no. In my experience, most of the time, hot pepper flavored suet is not something squirrels like and will mostly leave alone. BUT, if squirrels get hungry enough, especially in winter, they will eat it if they can reach it.
How to Keep Raccoons Out of Suet?
As with squirrels, the best solution is to hang it in a suet feeder on a pole, this time protected with a longer barrel type raccoon baffle. If that doesn’t do it or this isn’t an option, then you’ll probably need to bring it inside at night to keep raccoons from running off with it (along with the suet feeder itself.) Check out my A Raccoon is Eating My Suet post.
How to Keep Starlings and Grackles From Eating All the Suet?
European Starlings like to sit on suet feeders and eat and eat and eat until it is gone. Small groups of Common Grackles can sometimes also get quite aggressive about eating suet too. Limit them by using upside-down suet feeders instead of regular open cage feeders or other feeders that let starlings and grackles sit comfortably to eat their fill. They will still visit upside-down feeders and dangle briefly, but not for long periods at a time and not long enough to eat it all.
There are also feeders that put suet deep inside a cage so that only small birds can get to the suet. I recently started using an Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder as a way to offer suet to smaller birds and block out larger nuisance birds like starlings and grackles. Because it also blocks out larger woodpeckers, I still do use upside-down suet feeders as well.
Also see my post on: Strategies to Keep Starlings Off Suet.
Where to Put a Suet Feeder?
In my yard, I have a million squirrels (or at least it seems like it.) The best place in this situation is to hang it on a pole. If you don’t have squirrel or raccoon issues, check out my Where To Hang a Suet Feeder post for more ideas. If you have trouble with starlings or grackles using the barrel baffle on a pole to get to feeders, see my post on Nuisance Birds Use Baffles to Get Suet.
Where to Put a Suet Feeder If I Don’t Want to Use a Pole?
Check out my Where To Hang a Suet Feeder post for more ideas on where to hang suet feeders.
What’s With All the Commercial Suet Flavors?
Most commercial suet blocks include extra things like nuts or blueberries or mealworms or whatever that are supposed to appeal to different birds. I’ve tried quite a few of them and in my yard, and I honestly have not noticed strong bird preferences for any particular flavor additions. Maybe a slight partiality to added nuts? The suet eating birds in my yard eat any of them.
What About 100% Pure Suet?
Commercial suet blocks that are 100% pure suet without any additions are less common. Pure suet will melt in hot weather unfortunately. Melted suet can coat a bird’s feathers and cause them serious problems. Dripping suet can also make a mess. So this is something to use ONLY in cold weather. (I store any leftover in a cool basement in warmer months.)
Testing Out Pure Suet on “Blackbird” Flocks
I purchased some of these blocks to try last winter. Two of my five suet feeders contain the more common suet with extra seed and nuts included. One often contains a Nutsie block. When it got cold, I filled the final two with pure suet blocks. The woodpeckers seemed quite content to eat this pure suet at about the same rate as they ate other types of suet. Other birds were not as thrilled and seemed to strongly prefer suet with additions like peanuts.
Once the mixed “blackbird” flocks of early spring arrived, I watched what they did on the two types of suet. European Starlings and Common Grackles avoided the pure suet blocks. If they tried dangling on one of the feeders with pure suet, they immediately moved off the feeder to one with a block with peanuts added. This doesn’t prove that they won’t go for pure suet, but it does seem to show a very strong preference. This does leave the pure suet available to other birds. (Note: See my post on “Suet Starlings & Grackles Won’t Eat? for more on this.)
Should You Offer Suet in the Summer? What About “No-Melt” Suet?
It is fine to offer suet to birds in the summer but you need to be careful to only use no-melt types of suet. Melting suet can be dangerous for birds both because it can coat their feathers and because it can go bad more quickly.
Manufacturers of “no-melt” suet render their suet extra times and also include additions to the rendered beef fat that help it not to melt and get drippy in hot weather. If you are offering suet in warm weather, look for “no-melt” or “feed year round” or something similar on the suet’s label. The Spruce has a good article on “How to Keep Suet From Melting in the Summer.”
How to Choose High Quality Suet?
Read the package ingredient list. Look for rendered beef fat as the first ingredient. Nuts (as the second ingredient) can be an extra protein source and are often enjoyed by the same birds that eat suet but are not a requirement.
If you can, avoid ingredients like corn, wheat or milo. Some of these are just filler that probably won’t be eaten by any birds. Others attract birds you probably don’t want on the suet and may not be eaten by the birds you do want to see. Sometimes wheat flour is added to make “no melt” versions.
I’ve used Pine Tree Farms suet for many years and like the quality. I have never had trouble with it and my local birds seem to like it. This past winter I experimented with blocks of C&S Pure Suet purchased from Amazon. It is rendered suet with no extra ingredients at all. (Only use this type in cold weather as in hot weather it will melt and can also go rancid. See above.)
What About Nutsie Seed Cakes?
Nutsie Seed Cakes are an alternative to suet that tends to be popular with the same group of birds. The ingredients list is: “mixed tree nuts, peanuts, sunflower hearts, pecans, dried fruit, gelatin”. The 10-oz version is sized the same as regular suet cakes so they can be offered in the same types of feeder that are designed for regular square suet cakes.
Caution: Squirrels also LOVE Nutsie Seed Cakes so make sure you hang these where squirrels can’t get to them unless you are trying to feed squirrels!
Why Use Upside-down Suet Feeders?
Most of the birds that backyard birdwatchers are putting out suet to feed can easily cling and eat upside down. Nuisance birds that try to dominate the feeder and eat all the suet typically have a harder time hanging on upside-down for very long.
While they won’t keep them off completely, using an upside-down suet feeder limits the amount of time the annoying birds spend on the suet and gives clinging birds like woodpeckers, wrens and nuthatches a chance to eat. In my opinion, these feeders are well worth it. (I have five!) Here is a post reviewing the Birds Choice Upside-down Suet Feeders I use in my yard.
What About Erva’s Starling-Proof Suet Feeder?
An alternative to upside-down suet feeders is a suet feeder inside an outer cage. This type of feeder allows small birds to get to the suet but blocks larger birds who can’t fit through the outer cage’s wire grid. I recently started using an Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder in addition to my upside-down suet feeders. It works for small woodpeckers and other small clinging birds but is not for larger woodpeckers.
How to Tweak My Cage Suet Feeder?
If you already have a traditional simple cage suet feeder and an upside-down suet feeder is not in your budget, you can tweak it to turn it into a sort-of upside-down suet feeder. It isn’t as pretty and you’ll need to maintain it, but it does help limit annoying nuisance birds from completely dominating the feeder. You can read about how to tweak your feeder in my Starling Proofing The Suet post.
How to Help Birds Find Suet Hidden in an Upside-down Suet Feeder?
If you have switched from a cage suet feeder to an upside-down suet feeder but your backyard birds aren’t using it, don’t despair. They may need a little bit of help from you to show them where the suet can be found. You can read about how I did this in my yard in my Birds Choice Upside-Down Suet Feeder post.
Why Don’t Birds Come To My Suet Feeder?
There could be a variety of reasons. First, it can take days or even weeks for birds to discover a new feeder. Or maybe you have hung the feeder in an area that is too busy (with human activity, predator activity or even too much bird activity. Woodpeckers can be skittish.) Or there may not currently be suet eating birds in your immediate area. (Check out my Choosing Seed For Backyard Birds post for a list of which east coast birds eat suet.) Also, be sure that the suet is fresh. Also see my post on When Birds Don’t Come to Feeders.
Can Suet Go Bad?
Yes. Keep an eye on the suet you offer to be sure it stays fresh. Raw suet can go rancid fairly quickly in high temperatures. You can try putting your suet feeders in the shade to keep them a little cooler, but rendered “no-melt” or “year round” suet is a better choice in warm weather.
Mold can also grow on exposed suet surfaces even on year-round varieties. In my experience, this happens more in wet weather especially in more open suet feeders. Covered feeders that protect suet from rain seem to slow this down. Check the suet in your feeders periodically to make sure it is still mold-free.
Why Buy Commercial Suet?
There are recipes online for making your own suet and I’m not at all knocking them. People who make it often say that birds prefer it. So more power to them. But I personally find commercial suet cakes to be very easy to use, less trouble and the birds seem happy with them so I haven’t made my own.
More Questions About Suet?
Solving suet and suet feeder problems is doable. Most solutions boil down to the right feeder with the right suet in the right location. If you have more questions about offering suet to birds in your backyard, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer.
Want to Read More About Suet? (Click on this link to filter the blog feed to show only posts in the “Suet” category.
Some of My Other Suet Posts:
Birds Choice Upside-Down Suet Feeder Review
Suet Starlings & Grackles Won’t Eat?
Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder Review
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39 thoughts on “Solving Suet and Suet Feeder Problems”
Just found your blog and it is wonderful! So much of what you share with feeding suet I can relate to as I’ve had my ups &downs. As to the upside down feeders, I think the woodpeckers not only have to see the suet, but also have a learning curve as to how to reach it. Our downys are quite methodical to the approach they take to get on our suet logs and even more-so the upside down feeder. It took much patience to find just the right location, but now it gets used heavily. In time, the suet logs will be replaced with additional upside down feeders. Starlings dominate those.
Hi Robert, Thanks! I totally agree that woodpeckers are very methodical about it. They find something that works and they stick with it. On the plus side, once they learn how to use one upside down feeder, they should recognize a new one and be totally cool with it. So you are already past the real tricky part. : ) Nancie
Wrapping a tree trunk with flashing does keep mammals off. I wrap it in an overlapping spiral fashion so about 4 feet is covered. I do not put screws into the trunk but into a number of wooden stakes positioned around the tree.
That’s an interesting approach. I can see how that would make it really tricky to climb. Does it bother the tree’s health at all?
Around here the Starlings make short work of just about any commercial suet. Upside down feeders will slow them, but they’ll be spending the entire day trying to get at it and scaring off the woodpeckers. But if I use 100% suet, they’re utterly uninterested. A few will peck at it as they make their rounds but eventually they stop showing up (unless I’m offering something else they like).
Starlings are incredibly frustrating aren’t they? If they WANT something they are very persistent in going after it even if you make it hard. The only thing I’ve found that will completely block a starling from something they really want is a well-designed cage feeder but in the case of suet, that would block the bigger woodpeckers too. I agree that upside down feeders won’t block them entirely but will slow them down.
It’s encouraging that you’ve had such good luck with the 100% suet. I have a stash of 100% suet stored in my cool basement that I’ve been waiting for cool weather to try out since it will melt in our summer heat. I’m excited to try it.
Thanks for your note,
Hello, I just discovered your website as I was searching for information about suet feeders. It is great. A few days ago I hung a small suet cage from a branch in my maple tree and birds discovered it the same day. It was exciting because it attracted two birds I had never seen before, a gray junco and an orange-crowned warbler. However, both of them and also the nuthatch that comes seem to prefer sitting on the branch above the feeder or on the top of the feeder to reach down to the top of the suet cake, so of course it will get nibbled down to where they can’t reach it anymore. I just put up a Birdola cage with fold-down wire perches but they don’t seem to like the perches much and still like to sit on top. Do you have any suggestions? Do you think they will start using the perches when they can’t reach the suet from the top anymore?
Also, have you heard of rats being attracted to suet? I take ours down every night and put it up in the morning and so far they haven’t found it. Neither have the squirrels yet, thank goodness. Thanks again for your website
Hi Sue, I think they will start with the easiest way to access the suet. I have not had those two particular types of birds eating suet in my own yard, so I can only guess at how they will react but I suspect you are right that when they can no longer reach it, that is when they will look for another way to access it. The best thing to do is watch them and if you see it’s not working, make adjustments. One possibility might be to cut a slice of suet to add to the bottom of the feeder to keep the top of the suet near the top of the cage.
Rats eat all kinds of things and I suspect they would find suet appealing. If you find that rats or squirrels start getting into the suet, my suggestion would be to hang the suet from a baffled pole out of reach of rats and out of squirrel jumping distance. That might be the easiest way to deal with it. Another possibility is to hang an extra large Erva baffle between the tree branch and the suet feeder, which should help keep them out.This of course would mean that the birds would need to learn to sit on the feeder itself instead of the branch to eat.
great blog, thanks for sharing your backyard bird wisdom.
just began using “raw suet only” cake this winter and no birds are into it. even have a share of raccoons and opossum visiting the yard and thus far, no takers. i also have multi bird mix seed with kernels and sunflowers and bits of nuts. so that alone attracts junco, robin, morning dove, cardinals, sparrows, wrens but have not seen man
i don’t know if they don’t like it or can’t smell it but they love the peanut kind hanging on the opposite end. my suet feeder has space for 3 cakes but i only put out 1-2 at a time. i got the suet only cake at a local hardware store, but a few cakes from the local grocery were not popular either. i just worry about inferior quality harming the birds and squirrels who feed.
also about to replace the most popular feeder b/c i have noticed more and more caked/damp food getting caught under the opening where the fresh food comes out. this will also not be healthy if birds eat this. so am thankful to have found your blog.
This is the first year I’ve experimented with offering the pure suet without any additions too. Some people report that birds in their yard love the pure (often homemade) suet best, but I haven’t found that so far in my yard. It’s getting eaten at about the same rate as the other suet, but I tend to see woodpeckers on it rather than some of the other birds that go for suet. I think it will be interesting to see what happens in the spring. Usually the starlings get to be a nuisance going after the suet in the spring. I’m thinking they might leave this type alone and not bug the woodpeckers. (Fingers crossed.) Right now I’m offering both types so everybody is happy.
I’ve found that peanuts are popular with a range of birds. Some of the birds that like suet like peanuts too, so suet with peanuts is checking off both likes for them. There may also be birds that are actually going for the peanuts in the suet cake rather than the suet itself.
It’s good that you are replacing your feeder if the design is causing unhealthy food. I’ve learned the hard way over the years to read lots of bird feeder reviews before buying a feeder and not just buy one off the shelf on impulse. (Been there, done that.) I have reviews here but you’ll also see them on Amazon and on other blogs about bird watching. If you have a local bird store, they can be really helpful too. I’ve also learned to think about whether a feeder is easy or hard to clean before I buy it. Some feeders are simple and can be easily cleaned out with a brush and/or running water. Others are designed to be taken apart easily so you can clean them. But others are not and are a pain to clean. (Check the manufacturer’s website to see if they have cleaning instructions posted online.)
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Really love my birds coming to feed here in my yard. Finding the right feed and suet is priority for me. Squirrels , starlings and crackles are my biggest issues. Gggrrrr… love to hear the info you pass along to help keep our feathered friends happy!
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Hi, I’m fairly new at this. The Robins fly up to the suet in cages but never quite reach it & so don’t land on it like other birds. I bought a tubular feeder with loose seed hoping they would eat that but they still try and fail at the suet. We have to limit ground food to avoid rodents. Also no big trees in our backyard just very tall shrubs. Any suggestions?
It’s interesting that your robins are attempting the suet cage feeders. I’ve never seen them show any interest in my yard, although I’m using upside-down suet feeders that I doubt they would be able to handle, so that is likely why.
American Robins don’t typically come to tube feeders, so I don’t think that is going to work for you, although other feeder birds will probably like the feeder. Robins are mostly ground feeding birds. Tube feeders really aren’t designed for the way robins like to eat.
Although I’ve never seen it in my yard, Feederwatch (https://feederwatch.org/learn/common-feeder-birds/ does say robins will also use platform feeders, which is more like eating on the ground. So that is a possibility. With your yard, you might consider a platform feeder mounted on a pole. If you have squirrels, be sure to mount a barrel squirrel baffle on the pole under the feeder and don’t put it too close to the bushes so squirrels don’t jump from there onto the feeder.
This is a post about one of the platform feeders I use in my yard: https://birdseedandbinoculars.com/wordpress/putting-a-ground-feeder-on-a-pole/ I can’t guarantee that your robins would take to it, but since you are seeing so much robin interest in the suet, if you put a suet cake in it, they might try it and it would better fit the way they like to eat.
One caution is that European Starlings and Common Grackles (as well as some other birds) are strongly interested in suet this time of year, so putting suet in an easy-to-access feeder might encourage those birds. (Some people are ok with those birds but many bird watchers find them to be very annoying.)
Also, while some birds eat suet year round, some birds only show interest in suet in the spring when they have babies. Once their young have fledged and graduated to other foods, you may not see those birds on the suet again until next spring. That may be the case with your robins although that is just a guess.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
Are you sure the robins don’t get any suet? I have two robins that park under the suet cage and fly up like you described, but if you watch carefully, they actually get a bit of suet each trip, and if any chunks fall to the ground they stay down and eat that first before resuming flights to the suet.
Really quite fun to watch – never saw this behavior before this summer.
We have Jays that have all of a sudden taken an interest in our suet feeder that we got with the tail rest for the pilated woodpecker. The question is will that big of a bird use the upside down suet holder and will it discourage the Jays?
I am not lucky enough to have Pileated Woodpeckers in my yard, so I haven’t seen this personally on my own feeders, but apparently they can use upside down feeders. Check out this video from Cornell’s birdcam of a pileated hanging on this type of feeder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9XcW0071Gc
Now the question of jays. I offer suet year-round in my yard and the only time that the Blue Jays take an interest in the suet is when they have young to feed. This is typically in the spring, but I’ve got them on my suet feeders now in July, so I think they must have a second nest going. The rest of the year, they mostly ignore it.
When I first got upside-down feeders, the jays had a hard time with them and mostly were no longer on them. But birds are smart and tenacious and over time, they get better and better at hanging upside down. They don’t camp out on the feeder for long periods, but they can come and jump up and dangle to get suet for a few minutes at a time. If your jays have never come across this type of feeder, this might discourage them for awhile. Or they may know how to use this type of feeder. If so, it will slow them down but not block them out completely.
All of that said, my guess is that a Pileated Woodpecker is most likely dominant over a Blue Jay and can probably hold its own at the suet feeder. My guess is that if the pileated wants to eat, the jays will have to give way and the pileated will eat. (In my yard, the jays will back off if the Red-Bellied Woodpecker tells them to.)
I just started with suiet this summer. I had mocking birds. We bought the same berry suiet but they didn’t come back. Any suggestions?
Mockingbirds aren’t daily visitors to my yard, so I can’t speak from my own experiences with them, but I can share a few thoughts that might be helpful. I’ve found in general that there are a variety of reasons why birds don’t come to a feeder. First, check the feeder and make sure it is physically in good shape. Also make sure the suet is fresh, clean and isn’t starting to go rancid or mold (something it can quickly do in humid and/or wet weather.) Other possibilities are that there is a hawk or other predator around. (If that is the case, you’ll tend to see ALL birds avoid the feeders rather than just one species.)
But the other thing (which may be the most likely answer) is that suet eating can vary seasonally in some birds. Suet is a high energy food that some birds especially like in cold months and when they have young to feed. In my yard, there are some birds that eat suet every day of the year (mostly the woodpeckers). Other species grab a bite now and then but not necessarily every day. And others only get on it in the winter when they really need the extra energy or in the spring or early summer when they have babies to feed. High summer tends to be a time when there are more food sources in nature and feeder visits may slow down. The Mockingbirds may be finding lots of berries in local bushes and not need the suet right now. But if that is the case, they will likely be back as the weather gets cooler.
My suggestion is to keep offering the suet. Even if the Mockingbirds don’t come back, you may have other birds discover it over time. If you find the suet is going bad because it is sitting out longer, you might consider putting less out at a time. Cut the suet block in thirds and put a third out at a time. If the feeder gets busy again, you can always add more.
You might also try enticing them with an alternate food. Mockingbirds tend to visit my yard to check out the berry bushes or the birdbath but when I was putting out dried mealworms on a platform feeder to try and feed bluebirds, the Mockingbirds appeared out of nowhere to gobble them up. That was in the spring so I can’t promise they would come for them this time of year but they might.
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Thank you for your post, it is very helpful. I am using Stokes Select feeder and I don’t have a squirrel problem with my suet feeders because I hang it from a pole they can’t climb or jump to.
I recommend Squirrel-X Proof of Stokes Select, It also a good choice for keep squirrels from eating suet.
Thanks for this article. I live in northern Vermont and started feeding the birds last year. By state law we generally take our feeders down come spring because of bears (I try to wait as long as I can; we’re very rural and bears aren’t quite as likely to risk crossing the open fields around our place to the feeders by our house). We often get quite a little party of birds around our feeders.
Anyway, can you address the composition of suet feeders themselves? I purchased a suet feeder with a tail rest from Duncraft. I see nuthatches on it every once in a while, but they don’t stay with it. I believe the suet is fresh. The screening that they peck through is about 1/4 inch square. Is it possible that the opening is just too narrow and inconvenient? If I replace the screening, what size opening is appropriate? I don’t want them to get their little noggins stuck!
I think the metal mesh screen on your suet feeder is probably fine. In my yard I find that some birds are on the suet feeders very often during the day (Downy Woodpeckers especially) and some are on it not quite as often but still regularly (Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and Carolina Wrens). Some birds mostly only get on it seasonally when they have young to feed (Blue Jays for example). And others are just occasional on the suet. The nuthatches I get in my yard (typically White-Breasted but sometimes Red-Breasted) are only on the suet feeders every now and then. So I’m thinking that your nuthatches may also be in the just occasionally category.
Thanks for the great blog post and all the interesting comments and info about people’s feeder setups. I have a feeder that’s really active with cardinals, chickadees, tufted titmice and white throated sparrows daily. I also see Downy Woodpeckers in the trees above my feeder. I put out a Squirrel-X Squirrel Proof Double Suet Feeder with two high energy suet cakes about a month ago. It’s directly above my feeder (maybe 4′ above it) but strangely no birds have found it or approached it yet. I’m wondering if they are intimidated by the double cage. For those who don’t know it’s two regular suet cages but then those are placed inside another cage. The idea is squirrels and larger birds (jays, starlings, etc) can’t get into the suet. It does seem risky for birds to go INSIDE the outer cage to get to the suet, but so many websites and reviews said this feeder worked great. So I just was wondering if anyone here had any experience with it. Thanks much!
I haven’t used that particular suet feeder but it appears to be similar to the Erva suet feeder that I’ve been using for the past nine months or so. (I’ve got a review of that one here on my blog.) I do think caged feeders of this kind can have a learning curve for different birds. I’ve been using caged seed feeders for a number of years now so birds in my yard are familiar with them and how they work. When I first put up my first caged seed feeder, the smaller birds it was designed for were very nervous about it. They would wander around on the outer cage. They would pop inside and then quickly out without taking a seed. Then they would pop in, take a seed and sit on the outside of the cage to eat it. And repeat. After a couple days, they realized that there was no danger to them in going inside the feeder and hanging out. Birds watch what other birds do and they learned from each other over time. At first it was mostly House Finches, goldfinches, chickadees, titmouses and wrens that used these feeders. But about a year or two ago, the Downy Woodpeckers started popping inside of the caged seed feeders too sometimes. They started doing that when I switched my Squirrel Buster feeders to safflower temporarily. To get the sunflower chips, they had to go to the caged feeders. They kind of learned because they had to learn. So when I did add the Erva caged suet feeder, the Downys were already familiar with caged feeders and it didn’t take them long to try it out. Some of the Downys now seem to prefer the caged suet feeder while others seem to prefer the upside-down type feeders.
So this is a long way of asking the question, do you have other caged feeders in the yard? If not, that might be one reason that the smaller suet eating birds are not using this one yet. They might need to learn how it works. I wonder if you temporarily tied a slice of suet cake to the outside of this feeder, if that would attract suet eating birds to it. Then once they are eating that, remove the slice and see if they then try going inside. Might work. Might not. I haven’t tried this.
Another possibility: You say that this suet feeder is placed about four feet above another busy feeder. I tried putting my suet feeders on the same pole right near my busy seed feeders at first and found that all the activity spooked the woodpeckers. When I moved the suet feeders off to a pole by itself, those feeders started getting used all the time.
But then again, another possibility could be that the small birds in your yard are not needing suet at this particular point in time. I find that Downys and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers tend to eat suet year round. The Downys tend to be on it several times a day and the Red-Bellieds a little less often but still regularly. The Carolina Wrens and titmouses and other little birds are on the suet in my yard much less frequently. And many birds are most interested in it in the spring when they are feeding babies. So that might be part of it too.
Thank you Nancie for such a thorough answer. I don’t have other caged feeders in the yard. The main feeder I have is a typical cylinder type feeder that is hung with a spring such that if anything heavier than a bird (i.e. squirrel) gets on the feeder the openings close, blocking off access to the seeds. This has worked well so far.
Interesting that you mentioned you once tried suet on the same pole and it spooked with Woodpeckers. I was worried about that, which I was I mentioned the proximity to the “main” feeder. I think I’ll take your suggestion of trying a little chopped of suet on TOP of the feeder, to see if this helps attract anyone to it. I’ll run with that for a few more weeks into the start of Spring and if I still have nobody interested in the suet I’ll relocate it. I don’t have a ton of options because this is a pretty urban setting. I have a nice Holly bush that the birds all use to stage before the feeder (and the chickadees grab their seeds and go into the bush to crack them open). I also have a pretty large maple that the birds use for various staging perches so I could possibly move the suet into that tree.
I’ll report back in a couple week. Thanks again for the suggestions!
My pleasure. I’d love to hear what happens.
Thanks for writing this posst. While others think squirrels are cute and cuddly, my birds and bird feeders don’t think so. One mission is to always send them away, always to no avail.
LOL. Squirrels are tenacious and can be such a pain getting into feeders. I must admit that once I got my feeders set up so that squirrels can’t get into them at all, I like them better!
Thank for writing such a detailed article. Being a beginner birdwatcher and birds lover I have learned a lot of new things. However, I have one simple question in mind which may also sound stupid to some people here but the question is… Are home-made bird feeders and bird houses as effective as those in shops? I am talking about a bird feeder made of plastic bottle vs a feeder purchased from amazon…
I want to make my yard as bird friendly as possible.
Thank you all and have a very good day
I think it is totally possible to create an attractive and effective bird feeder or bird house yourself. But there are several things you would want to keep in mind when putting together your creation. The first is that the safety of the birds you are trying to feed should be a top priority. What you create should not have sharp edges or a design that might trap birds in a small space for example. A feeder would also need to keep the food clean and dry so that the seed or other food doesn’t mold and make birds sick. It should also be easy to keep clean for the same reason.
If you make a feeder, you would also want to think about which birds living in your area might come to a feeder. Different bird species sometimes prefer different types of feeders. Feederwatch has a helpful interactive page which you can use to see which common feeder birds like which types of feeders: https://feederwatch.org/learn/common-feeder-birds/
Many people who feed birds also want to have some say in what critters they are feeding. Some commercial feeders are designed to block squirrels from the food for example. Others are designed to keep out flocks of larger birds like starlings or grackles, while letting smaller birds eat in peace. If you make your own feeder, you might have issues with this and need to adjust your design to try and block squirrels or birds you’d rather not feed. (BUT, there are also folks who enjoy feeding any and all birds and other critters.)
If you want to make your own bird house that will actually get used and not just be decorative, first do some research on the birds you are hoping to attract. Learn which types of birds are likely to come to a human-made bird house and what they want in a bird house. Different birds might be looking for different sized cavities for example. And the size of the hole can make a difference in that a too-large hole can let predators into the nest of a smaller species. Making the house to fit the birds’ needs will make it more likely to be used.
I do see a lot of decorative crafty bird feeders and houses online. Being from a craft background myself, I can enjoy them from a decorative point of view, but I do think a lot of them are not practical for providing food safely and keeping out squirrels and sometimes the larger annoying birds. BUT, I do also think that it is possible to create something yourself that works. My suggestion would be to go to the local shops and look at the feeders they have on hand. See how they work. Read the descriptions on the boxes or online and then think about how you might make something yourself.
Nancie, Thank you so much for being so helpful.
Keep smiling 🙂
We have been putting No Melt Peanut Delight Suet out for the Finches and Sparrows for years. That is the only Suet they like. The last month or two they are barley eating the Suet, and we can’t figure out why. Any suggestions?
It’s hard to say why because it could be so many things. I don’t know how your local weather is lately, but here in Maryland, we’ve had a very warm fall. Because we’ve had very few days with really low temps so far, birds in my yard don’t seem as interested in the suet as usual. So that is one possibility. If that is the case, then they will probably begin eating it again once the temperature drops.
Other things to consider/check: 1) Is there any change in the feeder location, 2) Is there any change in the activity around the feeder? (people, machines, predators). Also, double-check the suet itself to make sure it seems clean and non-moldy (which can happen to suet especially in warm wet weather.
We put used dripping (beef fat) out for the silver-eyes in the winter. We used a mesh bag hung from a rope line so that only the silver-eyes could use it. It was right outside my kitchen window so we were able to watch them as we did dishes, etc. I got the fat from my own fryer and also from our fishmonger, who also did takeaways, including fish and chips. I do so miss the birds now, also the cattle and the acres and acres of pasture. It’s horrible moving from a spacious country house to a tiny urban apartment.
Wow! That would be quite a change moving from such wide open space to an apartment. I hope you can find some local birding spots to enjoy the city birds. I went on a birding walk here in nearby Baltimore a while back and there were quite a few interesting birds to see in the city parks. One of the best birding spots they brought us to was a cemetery, which I wouldn’t have thought to explore for birds.
Is there anything available that will catch the suet that falls? Instead of landing on the ground or planter. Also how do I keep the thrashers from eating it all?
Interesting question. This isn’t something I’ve tried to do. In my yard there are other birds that happily pick up any fallen suet on the ground so the area remains clear.
I also haven’t had thrashers eating the suet in my yard so I can’t say for sure how to slow them down specifically. I’m not sure what type of suet feeder you are using but a caged suet feeder might keep a larger bird like a thrasher out. Actually, a caged feeder with a floor might also help with your falling suet problem too. I have a review on this blog of a caged feeder that I like that can optionally be used with suet.