Suet is incredibly popular in the spring. In my yard it is arguably more popular this time of year than any of the seed in the feeders. Even if you are someone who doesn’t feed birds in warmer weather, I do encourage you to at least put out suet in the spring and early summer, as you will be rewarded with mom and dad birds visiting repeatedly to bring suet back to their babies and then bringing their fledglings to the suet directly. (And of course woodpeckers and quite a few other birds enjoy suet year round as long as it is the melt-free type that is less likely to go bad in hot weather.)
I’ve always offered suet to the birds in the inexpensive metal suet cage feeders you find everywhere. But one day last fall the local bird store was having a sale on bird feeders so I decided to try a different type of suet feeder, a Birds Choice Upside Down Suet Feeder.
This one looks like a little house but with a gridded bottom surface, like cage feeders have, that allows access to the suet on just the bottom. To put the suet in this feeder, you lift up the entire roof, sliding it along the hanger cables, put the suet in and then replace the roof by sliding it back down. It’s very easy.
It hangs from a loop so, depending on where you are hanging it, you may need to get some type of hook or other attachment to hang it. My local bird store sells inexpensive little metal hooks for this purpose. I’m thinking that you could probably also use a metal shower curtain S-hook if you happen to have an extra around. (In the top picture, I’ve hung it using a black metal hook on an Erva baffle.)
I found that this feeder took the birds some time to find and use. I tried it several places over a period of weeks without a single peck mark to mar the smooth surface of the commercial suet block I placed inside of it. I finally realized that I needed to think like a bird and consider what a bird might see when looking at this feeder. From the top and sides it probably looks like a pretty solid people-thing with nothing to really entice them. From these angles, they can’t see the suet inside. So I needed to position it so they could see it.
I temporarily placed this feeder so that it hung over a regular cage suet feeder. That way when the birds were on the feeder below, they could look up and see the suet. It worked beautifully and the birds started using the suet. You just need one bird to figure it out; other birds will notice what the first is doing and try it themselves. Once they got used to it, I was able to move it. It is now hanging from the overhang on my back steps. I can see birds visiting it from my kitchen window. I’ve recently purchased a second one that is hanging from a tree limb by a baffled hook.
It took me a little while to warm up to these feeders but I do like them very much now. Made of recycled materials, they are sturdy and should last quite a long time. The smooth solid angled roof makes it harder for European Starlings to settle onto the feeder and dominate them. (By watching the woodpeckers, they can learn to dangle briefly from the bottom, but they can no longer sit on top and eat for hours.) The roof also keeps out rain and snow and I’ve noticed that the suet in these feeders is less quick to mold than in open cage suet feeders.
Once the birds figured this feeder out, it has gotten a steady stream of customers, including Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmouses, Carolina Wrens and Carolina Chickadees. While I’ve had European Starlings and Common Grackles dangle for a few seconds on them, they don’t tend to dominate them. If it is placed near a support or tree branch, other birds like Grey Catbirds and Blue Jays will visit this type of feeder too. (The local Blue Jays have recently learned to dangle too though!)
This feeder is admittedly more expensive than the typical cage suet feeder. If cage style feeders are working for you, then you may have no reason to switch. But I like that they are easy to fill and are already set up to be fairly starling proof so I don’t have to mess with starling proofing the feeder with plastic like I do with the cage feeders. You could also argue that they are more attractive than the traditional metal cage suet feeder.
It is heavier too, so a squirrel is unlikely to be able to pick the whole thing up or move it to get into it (as I’ve seen larger squirrels do with cage feeders), although I suspect that given time, they could figure out how to lift the roof. (A baffle is always a good idea for almost any feeder and when hung in the right spot can keep squirrels off the suet.) I also like that the suet is more protected from the weather so I lose a bit less to mold in warm rainy weather.
Because the suet is hidden inside this feeder, you do need to go out and take a peek underneath every now and then to check out whether it needs to be refilled, unlike cage feeders where you can typically see if they are empty from a distance. But otherwise, they are very low-maintenance and easy to use.
I currently have six suet feeders (and one nut block filled suet feeder) hanging in various places around my hard, two of which are now these roofed upside down feeders. I suspect that I’ll be gradually swapping out more of the traditional cage feeders for these.
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