Let's Talk About: Suet bird feeders

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Birds are interesting creatures to watch. They flit and fly around, bouncing from tree to feeder. We usually only think of bird watching in warm weather, but bird watching in the winter can be an enjoyable way to beat your indoor blues.

Like humans, birds need a balanced diet to help them grow. During the winter, birds need extra fat. Many birds, such as woodpeckers, love a fat called suet. Raw suet is the fat around the kidneys in the loins of animals such as cows and can be purchased at the grocery store. British-style cooking uses suet for steamed puddings and meat pastries.

Some bird watchers will put a chunk of suet in their bird feeder. More commonly, people think of suet as suet cakes -- fat with seeds and nuts in a preformed square. Suet cakes are easy to find and are inexpensive. With a little help from a grown-up, you can make your own suet bird feeders at home.

The first ingredient is 1/2 cup of fat. I like to use bacon grease, because it's easy to save after making breakfast. The second ingredient is peanut butter, another fat. Mix about 1 cup of peanut butter with 1/2 cup of molasses or light corn syrup. These ingredients also supply birds with fat and help the other ingredients stick together.

Add fillers, such as stale cereal, nuts and grains to the mixture. Birds need good nutrition, so make sure you add ingredients that are low in sugar. Some to try include cornmeal, oats, nuts, raisins and bird seed. Add the filler ingredients until your feed forms into 2-3 cups of dough. Then press into an 8-by-8-inch foil-lined pan and cut into smaller squares.

Place your suet cakes into a bird feeder or hang on a branch near a cozy window. Now you can enjoy watching the local and migratory birds from the warmth of your house.

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