My approach to offering suet to birds in my yard has evolved over the past several years. Through a lot of trial and error with feeder type and placement, I’ve learned a lot along the way. My current suet set-up has been working wonderfully for season after season and now I don’t have to stress over it at all. It just works.
But two years ago a raccoon started getting into my suet feeders and causing a mess: “A Raccoon is Eating My Suet!” This is when I made my final change. I invested in two poles, each with two shepherd’s hooks, protected with a barrel type raccoon baffle on each pole to deter both squirrels and raccoons. I added an extra little arm to one of the shepherd’s hooks, giving me a total of five spots to hang the Birds Choice Upside Down Suet Feeders which I now use exclusively for suet. For the past two years, this is how my suet has been offered and it has worked beautifully.
One of these shepherd’s hook poles is located a few feet out from a large living room window in the front yard. This one has two suet feeders on it. It is close enough to the front window that bird strikes are minimized and close enough to the front porch railing that the Downy Woodpeckers usually fly first to the vertical wood bars on the railing to cling briefly before flying over to the feeder. Fortunately even with this relative closeness to the porch and the house, the squirrels have stayed off it completely. It is easy to watch birds on these feeders from the living room.
The other pole is located out in the back yard about twenty-five feet out from the back door and easily visible from the kitchen and dining room windows. This is the one with the extra little arm that holds three suet feeders.
Both of these poles ONLY have suet feeders on them and the nearest seed feeders are at least twenty-five feet away. My experiments with placing suet feeders right with seed feeders or even just a little bit away from them, did not work well. I found placing them at least this distance apart to be important for a couple of related reasons.
First, if you offer suet right next to or on seed feeders, it can spook some of the birds you are trying to attract. While bolder social birds like Carolina Wrens or Blue Jays are usually fine with taking some suet when other birds are right there, more solitary birds like Downy Woodpeckers and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers do not want to eat right in the middle of noisy flocks of birds.
Second, even if you put only suet feeders on one pole but put that pole too close to other feeders, then you’ll get other birds using the top of the shepherd’s hooks as a place to pause before flying over to the seed feeders. And again, the birds on the suet feeders get disturbed. With woodpeckers, spacing is appreciated.
Because there are two or three suet feeders hanging on the same pole within a foot or so from each other, you might wonder if several birds would be willing to eat at one time. I’ve never seen all three suet feeders in use at once, but there frequently are two in use at once. This will happen when Downy Woodpeckers bring their young to the feeders in the spring and occasionally when pairs feed and throughout the year when a Downy is feeding next to a Carolina Wren or some other smaller bird. (They don’t use the same feeder, but a different feeder on the same pole.) Usually the Red-Bellied Woodpecker gets to eat by herself, but like most birds, she doesn’t stay for more than a few minutes at a time, so it is fine.
The birds that use our suet feeders most are the two types of woodpeckers and the wrens. But Tufted Titmouses, Carolina Chickadees and White-Breasted Nuthatches will grab a bite every now and then, as well as the occasional Pine Warbler when they come through the yard. In the spring, the local Blue Jays will come and dangle for a moment or two to get some suet for their young. In late winter, European Starlings will do the same, but because the feeders are upside down, they tire of it pretty quickly. Just this past week, three Eastern Bluebirds have been hanging around the yard and have similarly grabbed some suet briefly. Sometimes various birds will poke around on the ground under the suet feeders to snap up bits of suet that other birds have dropped.
Good quality poles and baffles are not cheap of course, but I have found that by offering suet in this more protected way, I don’t have to refill the suet feeders anywhere near as often as I used to. So this one-time expense is saving me money over time and the birds seem quite happy.
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