Suet is hard, white animal fat that comes from around the kidneys and loins of sheep and cattle. It provides a high-energy food source for birds during cold weather. High in calories and easy for birds to digest, suet is particularly appealing to woodpeckers, nuthatches, jays, starlings, and chickadees.

Cardinals, wrens, creepers, kinglets, and warblers also sometimes visit suet feeders. If you don't want these types of birds at your feeder, try a feeder that makes it necessary for birds to feed while hanging upside down.

Suet is an excellent alternative food source for birds during the winter. Plain suet and suet blends are available at many pet and big-box stores. Blends contain things like nuts, seeds, meal worms, peanut butter, and fruit to attract a wider variety of bird species.

Suet is most commonly available as square cakes, but it also comes in plugs, balls, shreds, nuggets and crumbles designed to fit in various styles of suet feeders. It's generally readily available where birdseed is sold; however, many backyard birders like to make their own suet in order to provide fresher cakes that suit the preferences of specific birds. Both large and small birds may eat suet. Bird species that regularly visit suet feeders include:

Downy Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Lewis's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Red-Headed Woodpecker
Chickadees, tits, nuthatches, wrens, small clinging birds:
Black-Capped Chickadee
Blue Tit
Bridled Titmouse
Brown Creeper
Cactus Wren
Carolina Wren
Chestnut-Backed Chickadee
Eurasian Bullfinch
Great Tit
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Tufted Titmouse
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Thrushes, orioles, grosbeaks, other large passerines:
American Robin
Baltimore Oriole
Black-Headed Grosbeak
Brown Thrasher
Eastern Bluebird
European Robin
Gray Catbird
Hooded Oriole
Northern Cardinal
Northern Mockingbird
Orchard Oriole
Varied Thrush
Blackbirds, jays and other corvids:
Black-Billed Magpie
Blue Jay
Clark's Nutcracker
European Starling
Gray Jay
Red-Winged Blackbird
Steller's Jay
Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

In addition to the above species, many other birds will visit a suet feeder because of their early or late migration habits that occur when insects are not as readily available. Species of tanagers, sparrows, and buntings will also eat suet as will bluebirds. Small hawks like the Cooper's hawk, red-shouldered hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk might also try to access the feeders. What types of birds visit your feeder will depend on which type of suet you provide, the style of your feeder, the season, and other foods that are naturally available.
To make suet more attractive to a wider variety of bird species, offer it on platform feeders that are easy for birds to access. Place new suet feeders near other feeders where birds will notice them. Select suet feeders that have roofs or are covered. These help protect the suet from the weather, keeping it clean and fresh longer. Use only fresh suet and check your supply frequently. Remove spoiled or rancid suet which birds will not find it as attractive. Put out only an amount that can be consumed before spoiling. Freeze unused portions until needed. Additional seeds or other foods birds recognize can be added to the suet until the birds have sampled it and become accustomed to the taste.

Suet is an attractive food for many different birds, but it can also attract a number of unwanted visitors to backyard feeders. These include squirrels, raccoons, mice, rats and even bears. Large suet feeders need to be used with baffles to discourage these pests. If suet is provided in a tray or ground feeder, offer only small quantities that will be eaten before other animals discover it. If larger birds are problematic, use a cage-within-a-cage suet feeder designed to discourage them while giving smaller birds more opportunities to feed. For tips on using squirrel baffles, go here.

(one of my very effective commercial squirrel baffles)

By carefully offering the suet, it's possible to attract dozens of different backyard birds that enjoy this rich, nutritious treat.

The recipe below stores well in the freezer. You can also use a mix of half suet and half lard:

1 cup suet or lard

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal

2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

Chopped nuts (optional)

Melt the suet and peanut butter in a large pot. Stir in the remaining ingredients, two cups at a time. The mixture should be the consistency of cookie dough. If too runny, add more flour.

Spoon the mix into suet molds or a pyrex baking dish. For a solid suet cake, press the dough down into the dish to remove all the air. If you're going to use some of the suet immediately, put it in the refrigerator until solid. Wrap the remainder in plastic and freeze. This no melt suet will withstand summer temperatures up to 115° F.

Some suet feeders like the one pictured below have suction cups that attach to the outside of a window, providing close viewing from inside the comfort of your home.