Location, Location, Location. This is as true for bird feeders as it is to restaurants we humans visit. You can have a great, well-designed feeder with fresh appealing food and get no or very few birds if the location is wrong. And squirrels will eat your suet if you don’t consider them when you pick a spot for your feeder.
Finding the right spot can make all the difference. Here is what I’ve learned about where to place suet feeders. It may just give you some ideas on where to place your own!
Finding the Best Way to Hang Suet
When I get a new feeder, I sometimes try several spots until I find where it works best. This post looks in depth at what suet strategies worked in my yard, what didn’t work and what partially worked.
I put them in a lot of wrong spots before I found what I think is the right spot. If you want to skip ahead to reading about my current suet feeder location, check out my Best Way to Hang a Suet Feeder post.
Avoid Bird Window Collisions
To minimize birds hitting your windows (which can kill birds) place feeders either within three feet of a window or more than thirty feet away. The idea is that a startled bird can’t get up enough speed to hurt themselves badly from three feet away. And windows are less likely to be seen as a fly-through at distances of thirty feet away.
Worked: Low Bushes Near Window
Next to bedroom windows at the front of our house are two leggy bushes. I hung two suet blocks from these bush branches about three feet from the window. There is a homemade birdbath in this area and a Squirrel Buster Plus Feeder hanging from a tree about thirty feet away. This makes it a popular spot with birds in the yard.
Pros: Suet here appealed to Downy Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens and Tufted Titmouses all year round and the occasional Red-Bellied Woodpecker. In the spring, other birds, especially Blue Jays, brought their fledglings to these feeders, which was very cool to watch.
There is a window seat on the inside of this window where our four indoor cats like to sleep and bird watch. The birds seemed to realize that they were no danger behind the glass and ignored the cats.
Cons: The downside to this location is that they were easy for squirrels to access so they would be occasional pests on them.
Worked: Large Bush Near Window
I hung another suet feeder near a window at the far front end of the house hidden behind a large evergreen bush. This feeder dangled by a very long chain from a thin flexible branch.
Pros: This one was popular with the same birds, as well as Northern Cardinals and House Sparrows, who seemed to prefer this more protected location. Here too, one of our cats could sit on the other side of the window, bird watching.
This feeder, dangling on such a long chain, required the squirrels to be more acrobatic, but they could still get into it if hungry enough to mess with it. I moved it around on the bush to find the branch and chain length that made it the hardest for a squirrel so they didn’t get on it a lot.
Partly Worked: Near Back Door
I hung yet another suet feeder on a post off our back steps, a few feet to the side of the kitchen window.
Pros: This feeder got visited mostly by Downy Woodpeckers and Carolina Wrens and the occasional squirrel.
Cons: It was the least used of the suet feeders, probably partially because it was located by a busy doorway and partially because of its hidden suet access . . .
. . . but it was nice to look out the window while cooking dinner and see a Downy Woodpecker on the feeder. (Note: See my Birds Choice Upside Down Suet Feeder post to learn how I helped birds find the suet in these feeders.)
Partly Worked: Against Tree Trunk
Pros: If you ask Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers and White-Breasted Nuthatches for their favorite suet feeder spot, they would probably tell you right up next to a tree trunk. Birds land higher on the trunk and then sidle and hop down to feeder level. They loved it.
Cons: Unfortunately, squirrels loved it too. They were on it so much that birds rarely had a chance, especially in cold weather. So this location had to go.
Didn’t Work: Inside Corner
Cons: Hanging a suet feeder from the house right next to the dining room window was a complete bust. Sure, it would have let me see birds very well. But this window is in an inside corner. I suspect this made birds feel trapped and less able to get away from a predator. Not a single bird visited either a regular cage suet feeder or this house-like feeder hung here.
Mostly Didn’t Work: Same Pole with Busy Feeder
Another spot that didn’t work well was on the arm of the pole where a platform feeder also hangs. (Note: In the picture, two cage feeders are wired together with suet in one and a nut block in the other.)
Pros: In this location, the feeder would sometimes get a Carolina Wren and very occasionally a Downy Woodpecker when other suet feeders were full. This spot was squirrel proof.
Cons: Suet-eating birds were quickly spooked by bird activity on the platform feeder. (The platform feeder was often full of busy active birds like American Goldfinches, House Finches and Blue Jays.)
Didn’t Work: Branch Next to Busy Feeder
Cons: Yet another unsuccessful spot was hanging on a branch a few feet from a Squirrel Buster Plus feeder. Same problem. Too much activity on the other feeder made it an unappealing place for quieter suet eating birds to dine. The squirrels could also easily climb down the chain to get the suet.
Worked: Branch Protected by Baffles
I hung three feeders on high tree branches, two of them protected by Erva extra-large baffles.
Pros: This spot was near enough to my dining room window that I could see them. But it was still far enough from the house that the danger of window strikes was lessened. It was also just enough removed from other feeders that they were not spooked by busier bird activity.
These three feeders were popular with Downy Woodpeckers, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice and occasionally a Pine Warbler.
Cons: You need to work hard on feeder and baffle placement to keep squirrels off suet hung on branches. I played around with placement for quite a while, searching for just the right spots on a large tree’s branches. A larger suet or nut block plus a metal baffle can get heavy; add the weight of a bird and it can break a lighter branch. So the branch had to be fairly heavy and sturdy.
Deterring Squirrels on Branch Hung Suet Feeders
I told you about how I starling-proofed suet feeders in another post. I worked to reduce squirrel activity on them as well. Anyone who has tried to thwart squirrels knows this is a tricky process because squirrels are clever and tenacious.
I hung two of suet feeders (a suet block and a large nut block) under flat metal baffles hung from a branch using long shepherd’s hooks and chains. (Note: I’ve purchased hooks and chains in a variety of shapes and configurations at various times. As I move feeders around, I swap hooks around. So here, I used a combination of hooks and chains I originally purchased for hanging these and other feeders.)
How A Baffle Keeps Squirrels Off Suet
Before I added the baffles, squirrels nimbly climbed down the hook and/or chain attaching the suet cage to the limb. Then they would hang from the under side of the feeder cage to get at the open bottom side; they were basically cradling the feeder cage on their stomach as they dangled.
A metal baffle prevents access from above. If they do climb down, they can’t get around the baffle. When a squirrel lands on it, it tips just a bit so the squirrel can’t use it as a secure perch to hang from the edge. It is too close for the squirrel to leap around the baffle edge onto the feeder. They usually wind up either falling off or climbing back up to the tree limb.
If they want to get to the feeder, they have to instead leap out sideways from the tree’s trunk which is a trickier prospect. Not impossible, but harder.
Increasing Distance From the Trunk
At first I could only easily place these three or four feet out from the trunk. Squirrels can jump up to eight to ten feet horizontally. So I knew they would still be accessible to a squirrel willing to leap, but not as easily so.
Watching it for two days, I only saw a squirrel succeed in getting to the nut block feeder twice for short periods, but I wanted to make this feeder even harder to access. So I enlisted Jim’s help to move the nut block feeder another couple of feet out and up on the same tree limb. Squirrels then needed to leap six and a half feet from the tree trunk to reach the dangling feeder.
Positioning the Baffle Correctly
On my first try at this (above), I hung a shepherd’s hook from a tree limb. Then I attached the baffle, then added another long hook and/or chain and then finally the feeder. This created a wide space above the baffle and another between the baffle and the feeder dangling below.
I soon realized that this put the feeders too far below the baffles. If the baffle is instead very close, the squirrels have to nail the landing so that they land on the suet feeder and not on top of the baffle just above it.
So I rearranged things, using the long shepherd’s hooks then chains, then the baffle and then finally the feeder. This left a very wide space from branch to baffle but only a couple inches from baffle to feeder. This helped, making it very challenging for them to jump horizontally onto the feeders. They could do it, but it took many attempts. (I watched one squirrel make repeated tries at it for the better part of an hour and finally give up.)
Works Best: Suet Feeders on Separate Baffled Pole
See? I’m as tenacious as any squirrel! I know that it may sound like a lot of trouble. But I look at it as a challenge and a puzzle to be solved. The reward was watching a variety of birds visit the feeders instead of watching the food go into a squirrel’s belly.
2019 Update: I have updated this post. My suet feeder strategy has evolved since I wrote it three years ago. It is working excellently! To learn about my current suet feeders location, check out my Best Way to Hang A Suet Feeder post.
What has worked for you in offering suet to birds in your yard? Do you use this type of commercial suet and/or nut block or do you make your own and offer it differently? Please share in the comments.
Other Posts About Suet Feeders
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