I absolutely love the wild birds and have always had bird feeders and bird baths within easy viewing of my desk whenever possible. They amaze me with
their energy, beautiful colors and their instinctive ways. Because they bring me such joy I am always look for ways to treat them. Wild birds aren’t necessarily picky when it comes to eating but they definitely have their preferences. I have fun playing with different variations of this homemade wild bird suet. I’ll whip it up, hang it and then watch for their reaction. Believe me, they will tell you real quick whether you hit a home run or not.
Did you know that, in some parts of the country, the mast – or nuts and fruits produced in the wild is at a 40-year low? This means a lot of wild birds are hungry. You can help feed them, save money (commercial bird food is expensive) and decrease waste by using your kitchen scraps to make a yummy treat for them.
How to Feed Wild Birds from Table Scraps
What You’ll Need
- Fat – You will need something to bind your table scraps together into a cake. The best thing to use is some kind of solid fat. Birds enjoy suet or lard – don’t use vegetable fat. You can save the fat you generate in your kitchen from cooking meat – pan drippings, bacon fat, etc. (The high fat content helps birds stay warm in the winter too). The ideal ratio is 1/3 fat to 2/3 table scraps. (Wild birds don’t need to watch their waistlines!)
- Container – Try using an old yogurt, cottage cheese, or sour cream container. You will need something light, durable and flexible.
- Miscellaneous table scraps – You can use fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cornmeal, oatmeal, bread, etc. – cooked or raw. (more ideas below)
Method for Making Wild Bird Food
The basic method is the same regardless of the scraps you use.
- Punch a hole in the bottom of the yogurt (or whatever) container.
- Thread a string through the hole, pulling it up and out of the top of the container. Tie a knot at the base to keep the string from slipping through. You will need a few inches of string above the rim of the container.
- Soften the fat by melting in a saucepan or microwaving it. Then, stir in your scraps – chop them into small bits if necessary. You can use a blender if you like.
- Pour the fat-and-scrap mixture into the container, holding the string so that it is roughly in the center of the mixture.
- Refrigerate the fat or leave it to cool at room temperature. Leaving it overnight on a countertop on a cold winter’s night should do the trick.
- Invert the container and remove the now solid fat mixture. Voila, you have a bird cake on a string! Hang it outside near a branch using the excess string and observe.
- If you want to attract tree-clingers such as wrens and nuthatches, you can smear the mixture right into the bark of a tree.
- To form a sturdier seed ball, form the bird seed mixture around a small pine cone.
- Seed balls can also be placed into mesh bags with holes large enough for birds to get their beaks through.
- You can also put the seed mixture into an orange peel
More Ideas for your Backyard Wild Birds
Here are some suggestions for bird cakes that you can try. You can also combine the various ingredients in these recipes to attract a wider variety of birds, and to use the scraps you have on hand.
- Fruit cake – To the fat, add leftover raisins, cranberries, cranberry sauce, holiday mincemeat, apple pie, chopped apple or pear cores and peels (seeds removed), etc.
- Nut cake – Stir in chopped nuts of any variety – sunflower seeds and peanuts are especially popular.
- Bread cake – This is a good way to use leftover stale bread. Crumble it into the fat mixture.
- Grain cake – Mix in leftover oatmeal, cooked rice, cornbread, cornmeal, pancakes, etc. into the fat. Millet, cooked or raw, is a healthy-for-humans grain that is popular with birds. Try mixing in pasta, too.
- Cheese cake – Add leftover cheese to your fat mixture, grated or chopped, any hard variety.
- Vegetable cake – This is a good way to use leftover salad, broccoli, spinach, and so forth. Chop it up and stir it in!
I hope you have as much fun feeding your backyard wild birds as I do. They can be very good little friends for you. 🙂