Meet the Suet-Eaters

By, Darlene Betat

If you haven’t offered suet as a part of your bird feeding repertoire, you have been missing out on some bird-joy. Hanging a suet feeder close to your seed feeder will bring in beautiful birds that do not typically dine at a seed café.

Winter cold snaps bring lots of activity to suet feeders. That’s because insects don’t move in freezing temperatures. With insects scarce, suet becomes a vital source of fat and protein for insect-eating birds.

Just who are these feathered, suet-eaters?  Woodpeckers, warblers, kinglets and more. Here are just some of our common, but endearing suet-eaters:

  • Northern Flicker* This large woodpecker is a show stopper with its beautifully spotted breast and striking black necklace; it flashes salmon-pink from under its wings and tail when it flies.
  • Bushtit* These tiny gray birds visit in the cutest mob ever! Go ahead, try to count them or determine which tail goes to which bird as they cover your suet feeder.
  • Downy Woodpecker* As the smallest woodpecker in North America it makes the cut for cute too, plus it gains designer points from its black and white patterned attire. Males jazz it up even more by sporting bright red on the back of the head.
  • Townsend’s Warbler The black mask in an orb of bright yellow makes me gasp every time!  This small bird is dramatically black and yellow with a green back and bold white wing bars. Sort out males from females by their black chin.
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler This sweet little bird offers subtle beauty in pale colors. Its gray suit coat is set off by a snow-white shirt marked with a wake of gray striping. It has distinct yellow smudges below the shoulder as well as on the rump. Chin can be yellow or white.
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet A tiny olive-green/gray bird with a white eye-ring and white wingbar. It is hard to miss because of the constant flitting of its wings. The ruby-crown is often hidden, but looks brilliant orange when the male raises its crown feathers.

Though winter is a well-known season for feeding suet, I have found baby bird season (April-July) to rival it! Most baby birds cannot digest seed, so even seed-eating adults will carry suet to their nestlings when insects are scarce. Talk about fun and rewarding. Yep, I can’t imagine my yard without suet feeders.