Whether your feathered guests are fall migrants or year-long residents, supplementing their diets with high-quality calories will help them survive to reproduce in spring.
1 cup crunchy peanut butter (less-processed is best, without added fillers)*
1 cup flour (whole wheat or white flour)
1 cup fat (suet or vegetable shortening)**
4 cups grains, seeds, legumes and/or dried fruit***
Choose local, organic ingredients where you can.
- Melt fat in a saucepan on low heat.
- While that's melting, mix other ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Pour melted fat over dry mixture, stir well and pour into pancake, loaf or muffin tins — all work well.
- If you're using a larger pan, cut the mixture into smaller blocks or cakes (about the size of a large brownie) once it's cooled. To avoid attracting rats, squirrels and raccoons, feed blocks should be small enough for bird guests to consume in a day. Discard rancid or moldy feeders. Blocks can be frozen until needed.
- Spread one serving of feeder mixture onto tree bark or smush it onto a pine cone. You can also place one fat block into a mesh onion bag (great recycling idea!) or a wire suet cage (get this at the bird store) — these give birds something to hang out on.
- If you hang your feeder from a tree branch, secure the holder to a tree trunk with wire or string. Keep it at a distance from bird houses or nest boxes to avoid attracting predators. (Don't worry about stuff that falls — it'll give ground feeders such as Dark-eyed Juncos and Doves a chance to dig in.)
- Sit back and enjoy the birds!
Feeders may be cleaned with a solution of Borax and water (1 T Borax to 1 litre water) or non-chlorine bleach.
* If peanut allergy is an issue, substitute almond or other nut butters. If nut allergies are a problem, try seed butters.
** Suet, the best fat choice for birds, can be purchased from a butcher, or at a wild bird store. If you choose vegetable fat, be sure it's non-hydrogenated — it's better for birds for the same reasons it's better for humans.
*** Options: rolled oats, cracked corn, cornmeal, black oiled sunflower seeds, striped sunflower seeds, shelled sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts (raw, unsalted), currants, cranberries, raisins, apples, wild berries or pre-mixed birdseed. (Note: many birds won't be able to eat seeds in the shell once they are coated in fat. You may have to substitute unshelled seeds.)