watching_birds-photo Watching, Attracting and Feeding Birds in New York
with Sam Crowe

Suet - my favorite food choice

Suet, or a similar offering, is my favorite choice for feeding birds.  Suet is the hard white fat on the kidneys and loins of cattle, sheep, and other animal.  It is usually feed to birds in the form of a suet cake, about 6 inches square.

Suet cakes are usually offered in a simple wire frame.  The frame can usually be purchased at a local big box store (Walmart, Target etc.) along with pre-packaged suet cakes.  The cage can usually be purchased for a couple of bucks, same for the suet cakes.  Suet is the only bird food I recommend purchasing from one of the big box stores.  


A commercial suet cake.

You can also make your own suet-based food.  

Homemade Birdie Treat

  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups corn meal
  • 3 to 4 cups wild bird seed - black oil sunflower or mix
  • 3 cups rendered* suet

Add the first three ingredients into the rendered suet. Freeze in a cake or pie pan, cut into serving pieces as needed and put in a suet basket.

*Suet is usually available free from a local butcher. To render suet, melt it over low heat in heavy pan, cool, reheat and cool again. While it's in its melted state, add other ingredients.

If rendering suet is not your cup of tea, it can be omitted from the above recipes. The mixture will not form a cake but can be spread on trees or placed in holes. Simply take a board or section of a dead branch and drill holes into the wood. Fill the holes with the peanut butter mix and watch the birds flock to it.

Suet attracts a large variety of species, including:  Mockingbirds, nuthatches, wrens, finches, jays and some warblers.

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Care and Cleaning Your Binoculars

Take care of your birding binoculars for best image

Proper care and cleaning of your binoculars will help insure the best image and longest life.

lens cleaning kitLenses
Keeping the lenses clean and scratch free is the best way to maintain the quality of the image you see when using your binoculars.  Use care when cleaning your binoculars.

Clean the lenses with a lens cloth or lens paper.  Cleaning fluid especially designed for precision optics is inexpensive and readily available.  Avoid cleaning the lenses with a paper towel or shirttail.  While they may appear soft, their use will hasten the removal of critical lens coatings.

Cleaning kits for cameras work well for cleaning the lenses of your binoculars.

Quick Hits

Do not worry if birds stop visiting your feeder.  There are many reasons including an abundance of natural food sources, a lurking hawk or even construction in the area. The birds will return in a few weeks.

Learn about the Common Grackle.
common grackle

Frequently Asked Questions

Where have all my birds gone? They have abandoned my feeders.

Several factors may have contributed to a temporary change in the habits of the birds visiting your yard. However, the odds are high they will return in a few days or weeks. Keep a fresh supply of black-oil sunflower or other popular feeds in your feeders and you'll be rewarded with returning birds.

There are many reasons birds may have stopped visiting your feeders. Even replacing an old feeder with a new one may cause a brief interruption. Here are a few of the possible causes.

1. Hawks
Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawks may have taken up residence near your feeders, looking for an easy meal. If none of the other issues listed below seem likely, the hawks maybe the issue. The hawks are doing what comes naturally, and will not consume any more birds from your backyard than they would normally in other locations.
Removing your feeders for a week or two will discourage the hawks. They will often move on, and your birds will return soon after you replace your feeders.

2. Cats
Free-roaming house cats kill millions of birds each year. One or more neighborhood cats may be staking out your feeders. You may need to resort to trapping or asking your neighbors to keep their cat indoors. More information on cats and birds is available on the American Bird Conservancy web site.

3. Construction
Nearby construction may have disturbed the birds. When the construction is complete the birds will probably return, although this depends on the loss of nearby habitat.

4. Food supply
Many birds consume only a small portion of their food requirements from your feeders. The birds may have located an area with a larger supply of natural foods. Planting flowers, shrubs and vines that provide natural foods will help you attract more birds of a greater variety and make your yard a favored location. Maintaining a birdbath is also a great way to attract birds and to keep them visiting your yard.

5. Migration
Some of your birds may be migratory in nature. They may have headed north in the spring to their nesting locations or south in the winter.

Bird identification

Learning to identify the birds you see is a fun and rewarding experience.  If you are a novice at identifying birds we have several options for you.

50 common New York birdsNifty Fifty Guides:  Our Nifty Fifty Guide to the Birds of New York is available on-line and in print.   It contains 25 common backyard birds and 25 additional common birds found in New York.  Purchase the print version.

The online version is shown below. Click on a corner to turn the page. has multiple resources for identifying a bird you have seen as well as information on improving your identification skills.   You can also send us an image on the web site and we will try to identify it for you.