Winter is tough on birds. Their fast metabolisms require high-energy foods, but such foods are hard to find in cold weather. Suet helps them replenish their energy stores. Recipes abound and can be tailored to feed your local population. Suet feeders come in all shapes and sizes, too.

THE BASIC RECIPE:

1 cup fat (suet, lard or shortening)

1 cup natural peanut butter

3 cups cornmeal

1/2 cup white or wheat flour

Melt the fat and peanut butter together in a pot over low heat until they are smooth and liquid. Add the cornmeal and flour, mixing thoroughly. After it cools and thickens slightly, pour into your container or mold. Refrigerate until firm.

THE MIX-INS:

Different additions attract different birds. Experiment with these and see who shows up at your feeder:

Chopped dried fruit or whole raisins:

Chopped unsalted nuts, especially peanuts

Honey

Insects, such as dried mealworms or crickets

Kitchen scraps (use only very limited quantities)

Millet (mixed red and white is best)

Quick oats

Raw sunflower seeds

Wild birdseed mix

DELIVERY OPTIONS:

Among dozens of options for getting the birds to the table, here are just a few:

Re-use an old wire suet cage that came filled with a block of suet. Line a square sandwich container with plastic wrap and fill it with your homemade suet. Refrigerate overnight, peel off the plastic wrap and transfer the suet to the (well-washed) cage to re-hang.

Make a small hole in the bottom of an empty, clean yogurt container and thread a length of string or twine through it. Tie a big knot at the end of the string that comes out the bottom of the container to keep the suet from sliding off.

Pack the container with the warm suet mixture. Refrigerate overnight and then unmold the suet, cutting it out if necessary. Hang it from a tree.

Unearth an old coffee mug that you have shoved to the back of your kitchen cabinet or pick up a used one at a thrift store.

Fill the mug with the hot suet mixture and push in a twig to serve as a perch. Refrigerate overnight, then hang the mug from a tree branch.

To attract birds known as “clingers,” such as woodpeckers, find a small (18″ to 24″ long, 3″ to 4″ in diameter) log. Drill 1 1/2″ holes throughout and fill with suet. Screw an eye hook into the top of the log for hanging. Make a skittish pileated woodpecker feel safer by hanging the feeder high up in a tree. Hang a long rope over a branch to raise and lower the feeder so you can refill the holes. These amazing birds are worth the trouble.

ONE MORE THING:

Do not offer birds homemade suet in warm weather as it may turn rancid. Even in winter, it’s a good idea to hang the feeder out of the direct sun.

Staff graphics by Pete Gorski

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