5 simple ingredients bring in the birds

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NEW WILMINGTON,Pa.– On a mild Thursday afternoon in mid-January, Connor White and I explored the Westminster College’s Field Station to gather some helpful information about what you should and should not feed birds.  We discovered the wrong ingredient could prove deadly for wild creatures.  We also found the right kind of recipe for bird food that will attract a variety of species to your backyard– and that recipe often calls for peanut butter.

The Introduction to Environmental Science class (ES 160) carried out a lab exercise making suet, a nutritional supplement for wild birds.  The ES students made their suet with peanut butter.  They explained how it offers lots of protein and fat for the high metabolism of birds.  It also helps hold the suet together.  According to All About Birds, the peanut butter in such recipes is a nutritious and a high-energy source benefiting birds during the winter months.

After sitting through brief introduction to bird feeding by Dr. Patrick Krantz, the ES students jumped into action into following this simple suet recipe.



  • 2 cups of crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 cups of lard
  • 1 ½ cups of corn meal
  • 1 ½ cups of rolled oats
  • 1 cup bird seed

Some other common ingredients to use:

  • Raisins
  • Apples, oranges, other fruit
  • Bacon fat – high protein

This particular recipe will attract a variety of species including:

  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Blue Jay
  • Brown Creeper
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Norther Flicker
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch

You can also find tons of suet recipes online.  We liked several from the Baltimore Bird Club.  Some create hardened cakes and others that are spreadable.

A common practice at weddings is to throw rice at the new bride and groom.  As traditional as this may seem, it is extremely dangerous for birds.  When birds consume rice, it swells in the stomach. Because birds are relatively small, any small bird eating a decent amount of rice will expand in the stomach and can result in death.  These concerns have prompted many weddings have substituted bubbles for rice to celebrate the bride and groom’s departure.

Another food to avoid feeding birds is bread. Bread, although it is not bad for the birds, has little to no nutritional value for most avian species.

The common thing to remember about when feeding birds is to stick to simple, unprocessed ingredients that birds would naturally eat.  Keep in mind that birds have gizzards, no jaw or teeth, so natural food elements in your suet recipe is best for them.

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