is the month of hanging wreaths, tinsel and bird
feeders in Moab. And as winter closes in on the Moab
Valley, you might want to “fatten” up
your December bird feeding program with some delicious
cakes of suet.
Suet is the hard fat layer surrounding the kidneys and loins of
cattle and sheep. Rendered down, this fat is a major food source
for some bird species birds like woodpeckers, jays, nuthatches,
and chickadees because it is high-energy food.
Historically, the rendered fat or tallow from livestock was used
to make candles. Today, the wild bird feeding market uses this
fat to create suet cakes of gastronomical delight. The Wild Birds
Unlimited® stores often recommend the all-purpose cakes made
with nuts or insects to attract the insect feeders.
The cold weather decreases the insect population and makes it harder
for these birds to find food.
Serving suet is easy as loading a CD player. Feeder models range
from wooden hoppers and vinyl-coated wire cages to mesh bags and
suet logs. The typical square-caged version accepts a single cake
of suet, while the hopper can be loaded from both sides. There
are even tub-style cages that hold a large block of suet. These
are designed for very active feeders that would otherwise require
constant replenishing. Though woodpeckers may cling to the wire
cages, the Tail Prop Feeders sport a wooden extension for woodpeckers
to press their tails against for better balance.
Feeders help you to learn bird identification. The birds around
your neighborhood may be attracted to the feeder thus bringing
them up close and personal. This is a great way to watch birds
from the warmth of one’s kitchen table.
If you are a “do-it-yourselfer” you could consider
making your own feeders and suet. To make a log feeder, simply
drill several 1” diameter ports in a two to three-inch diameter
log and add a cup hook for hanging. An added hole on the bottom
will attract nuthatches that can feed hanging upside down to feed.
You can also render your own suet or trimmed beef fat but remember
to cook it outside, otherwise your kitchen will smell like a greasy
spoon for weeks. Mix partially-cooled rendered fat with two tablespoons
of cornmeal, oatmeal, dried fruits, chopped nuts, or birdseed.
Pour the mixture into hard plastic sandwich containers and refrigerate
For a fun child’s project, tie a string onto the end of a
pinecone and then dip the cone repeatedly into the melted suet
mixture. When coated, roll the cone in a tray of birdseed. Tie
the pinecone to a tree limb and let your child watch to see who
comes to dinner. You can always substitute peanut butter for the
suet, and remember to hang these cones high enough to be out of
a dog’s reach. You’ll want to place the feeders near
escape cover as predatory hawks are bound to also take advantage
of these feeders.
Feeding winter birds has come a long way from tossing breadcrumbs
out the back door. Suet feeders make great, inexpensive holiday
gifts that last long after the giving – unless you have a
horde of hungry birds pecking on your feeders. But by then, you’ll
have enjoyed a parade of feathered friends to your feeders to rival
Moab’s annual Festival of Lights.
As a side note, the annual Christmas Bird Count needs feeder watchers
to record birds at their feeders. The count will be held December
17, and you may contact Rick Boretti at 259-4050 for additional