Eugene, Oregon

Barbara & Dan Gleason

Barbara & Dan Gleason

We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.

Eugene, Oregon

2510 Willamette Street
Eugene, OR 97405

Phone: (541) 844-1788
Fax: (541) 844-1732
Email: Send Message

Store Hours:
Mon - Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun - Sun: 11:00 am - 4:00 pm

Comments:
Eugene's Wild Bird and Nature Experts... Call us about monthly seminars, bird walks, and any wild bird questions...we're all about the birds!

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Suet: An Excellent Food All Year Long

Tail-prop Suet FeederFeeding suet is helpful for birds year-round. It is fun and exciting to see the different kinds of birds that can be attracted by providing suet. Wild Birds Unlimited's suet is made from the highest quality beef kidney fat. Our suet is rendered to help remove some of the impurities that can cause spoilage.

Are you wondering why suet is appropriate for birds because you don't think birds eat animal fat? Not the case: birds regularly eat all kinds of insects which contain fat, many species will eat fat from animals like deer or squirrels that are killed in nature, and many birds will eagerly feast on spiders, gnats, beetles and many other insects and animals. So, feeding on fat is a natural event for many bird species.

Using both suet and suet dough allows you to feed the birds year round. Regular suet is used during cooler weather, and in warmer weather suet "dough" is formulated with a higher melting point so it won't get "goopy" in warm weather.

The variety of suet flavors helps to attract a variety of birds. It is especially helpful to birds when their natural food source is hard to find (during winter months) or when the birds are nesting and raising their young. It is fun to watch birds bring their young to suet feeders in the summer months.

All of our suets are high in calories from the fat, which is the most important component of suet. Protein is also good and some of the other ingredients like nuts provide protein, but does not need to be extremely high. Remember that suet feeding supplements the birds’ diet; it does not replace their main food source.

What is Suet?

Suet is technically defined as the hard fat around the kidneys and loins in beef and mutton, but in common usage, most kinds of beef fat are also called suet and can safely be fed to birds. Suet is particularly attractive to woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays, and starlings. Wrens, creepers, kinglets, and even cardinals (in the East) and some warblers like Yellow-rumped and Townsend's visit suet feeders. Animal fat is easily digested and metabolized by many birds; it’s a high-energy food, especially valuable in cold weather.

Raw suet, such as that obtained from a butcher, grows rancid quickly when temperatures are above freezing; don’t offer it except in cold winter weather. When suet is melted and the impurities removed (“rendering”), it keeps much better, but can still get soft during warm weather. When suet gets soft, it can coat birds' belly or facial feathers, a dangerous situation especially in spring and summer when birds are incubating—tiny pores on the birds’ eggs may get clogged, preventing the developing embryo from getting enough oxygen.

Suet cakes are blocks made from suet or a thick substitute mixed with other ingredients, such as corn meal, peanuts, fruits, or even dried insects. Because corn and peanuts can provide a growth medium for dangerous bacteria, it’s important to buy them from reputable retailers. It may be prudent to keep suet cakes made with corn, cornmeal, or peanuts refrigerated until you're ready to use them.

Starlings are very fond of suet. To dissuade them, offer suet in a feeder that requires birds to feed hanging upside down. Woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches will access it easily, but starlings cannot.

If you are tempted to make your own suet, use the highest quality fresh beef kidney fat, render it properly for the correct length of time and store it in refrigeration until use. Never add salt or sugar and only add the types of foods birds would come into contact with in nature: seeds, nuts, or insects, such as the ingredients found in the suet we carry.

We are sometimes asked if there is vegan suet, but to our knowledge at the time this is being written no one has come forward with a vegan suet that birds will eat. We would welcome a product that has been researched and independently tested if someone were to introduce it, as some of our customers have asked us about this idea. But, to our knowledge, such a commercially available product doesn't exist.

Peanut Butter...some cautions

In winter, especially in cold climates, peanut butter is a nutritious food to offer birds. Peanut butter sold in grocery stores is certified safe for human consumption, but it is safe to offer birds ONLY if it has no sugar or salt in it, and only when cold or cool temperatures keep it fairly hard. In warmer weather it must not be kept outside long enough to become rancid or soft.

There is some concern that soft peanut butter can stick to birds’ mouths. To make it grittier, cornmeal can be added, but because both corn and peanuts provide excellent media for bacterial and fungal growth, make sure peanut butter feeders are cleaned out frequently, every few days. Peanut oils can separate in both pure peanut butter and in mixtures. If these oils adhere to a nesting bird’s feathers, they can be transferred to eggs, plugging the pores, so never provide peanut butter mixtures that become soft or oily.

Leftovers and Other Human Food

We never recommend offering human leftovers at all. This may seem like a way to avoid waste, but it’s not usually a good idea for feeding birds in your backyard. It’s possible for the food to spoil and be unhealthy for songbirds; and it’s quite likely to attract European Starlings, House Sparrows, or even more undesirable species such as rats, mice, and raccoons. We sometimes get calls asking if people can put flour or crackers, or other foods out for birds. Usually, this is a bad idea since birds would never come into contact with these usually human-prepared foods in nature. Also, if such foods are considered past date, then definitely they should not be served to birds. And anything with salt or sugar in it is a definite "no" since again, birds don't consume these man-made products in nature to any degree.

Bacon drippings

Bacon is never recommended. Bacon drippings are animal fat just like suet, and many birds might eat it. But bacon always has detectable amounts of nitrosamines, carcinogenic compounds formed from some of the preservatives used in bacon. In particular, the very high cooking temperatures used to fry bacon are conducive to nitrosamine formation. So despite the fact that birds love it, bacon and bacon fat pose too much of a risk to the long-term health of birds to warrant using it.