Winter is a gift: it’s nature’s down time, a time when many plants go dormant and many animals have a winter’s rest. However, for those animals that are still active, winter can be a challenge. It’s hard for small animals to keep up their energey when they are wet, and cold. Plan winter gardening with birds in mind, and they will return the favour through routine visits. Suet feeders provide fuel to stay warm in the cold winter season.

Suet is one way to help out winter birds. It’s animal fat, and it’s an excellent food for woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees. These birds hop along tree bark searching for bark-dwelling insect grubs. Suet feeders emulate this, providing birds with a block of fat and protein-rich food. Chickadees favour sunflower seed suet, while woodpeckers go for suet that’s packed with seeds and insects. Many birds aren’t terribly picky, and they’ll simply enjoy this easily accessible winter food.

Choosing a feeder: Wire mesh suet feeders are simple and easy to use, and they’re easy for birds to access. They’ll grab onto the mesh and feed as they would naturally, as they hang from the feeder to eat. Be strategic about what birds access suet — an upside-down feeder will deter many birds (including starlings) that have a hard time hanging upside-down to feed.

As with other feeders, be strategic about placing bird feeders. Install them where the can be viewed and enjoyed, and where they will be noticed if empty or in need of repair. Make sure that feeders are out of reach of common bird predators such as cats. Install them away from high places that cats might jump to, like fences or low branches.

Give winter birds some shrubs to hide in, a warm bird bath to drink and bathe in, and a block of suet to eat, and they’ll be happy visitors to the garden all winter long. Fill seed feeders regularly with quality bird seeds, and remember that the tiny Ana’s Hummingbird is a winter resident in British Columbia. They will visit clean hummingbird feeders regularly all winter long.