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The Sound Of Music: Bird Baking 101

Homemade suet cakes or puddings filled with seed are a terrific food for attracting a wide variety of our feathered friends.

homemade suet cake on a plate

Photo: iJammin (Flickr)

Follow the recipe below and you'll have many hours of colorful bird "parties" to watch right outside your window during every season.

Suet Cakes

Spring is my favorite season for many reasons. Sure there is all that “Earth’s rebirth” stuff, but my favorite part is that you get to sleep with the windows open. The rustling of the pine trees talk me to sleep.

Occasionally, I’ll be awakened by a stray cat or a raccoon going “bump” in the night. It actually puts a smile on my face. Someone is keeping the same hours I used to keep in Manhattan!

Just before dawn, the real symphony begins. A backyard filled with the sounds of chirping birds can be music to your ears… even at 5am.

Bird Watchers

One of the most peaceful things I can think of doing is sitting on the porch observing the colorful variety of wild life. Time literally flies by.  At our house, we hang feeders outside the kitchen windows to make sure we don’t miss a beat.

Three essential elements are needed to attract and keep birds in your yard.  First of all: high quality seeds are necessary.  Second: access to water, both to drink and bathe in. Lastly: safe cover, preferably in native plants.

This will protect birds from backyard predators and inclement weather.  It also gives birds a feeling of safety and allows you to observe them without being disturbing.

Protecting The Feed

Make sure you hang your feeders and suet in a way that squirrels and other critters won’t molest them. They can make a getaway faster than a big city thief. Grackles, those glistening black beauties, are big bullies at the feeder so jump up and yell at them. Blue Jays are gorgeous too, but don’t let the J-bird’s good looks fool you; they can be real thugs as well.

Homemade suet cakes or puddings filled with seed are a terrific food for attracting a wide variety of our feathered friends including several woodpecker species, titmice, wrens, and warblers.

A fine suet meal will insure a cacophony of songs from the feeder. Surf the web for other culinary delights you can cook up and serve your feathered friends.

Sunflower Fun

Black oil sunflower seed is a favorite of many birds including finches, cardinals, red-bellied woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, and grosbeaks.  Nyger thistle is excellent for attracting goldfinches and house finches.  The seed is quite expensive, but well worth it.

In the summer, I love growing sunflowers and enjoy their huge blossoms in Augusts. I dry the seed-packed heads out in the garage in September.

When Christmas rolls around, I tie whole heads to trees with red ribbon, or sometimes I’ll nail them to fence posts for holiday bird watching fun. Go ahead and try it, who knows, the birds might even sing you a carol.

The Sound of Music: Bird Baking 101

Many birds get their nutrition from insects and, during the winter and spring especially, they find this harder to find insects or have a higher metabolism during mating season and when raising their young. Hanging a suet cake can attract nuthatches, woodpeckers, wrens, titmice, creepers, kinglets, chickadees, thrashers and cardinals.

Luckily birds like cakes that you don’t have to bake so follow the recipe below and you’ll have many hours of colorful bird “parties” to watch right outside your window during every season.

No-Bake Suet Cakes


  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup suet or lard
  • 2 cups “quick cook” oats
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup mixed nuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup bird seed
  • 1/4 cup minced dried fruit such as apples, blueberries or raisins
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Cooking Directions

  1. Melt lard and peanut butter. Stir in other ingredients. If it seems runny, add more flour.
  2. Fill small plastic margarine containers about 1/2 full, then freeze.
  3. Remove from container; wrap, keep in freezer.

Note: Forage for your friends by picking wild cherries and elderberries in season and dry or freeze for later use.

Chef Daniel Orr

Chef Daniel Orr is the owner of FARMbloomington and the author of several cookbooks. He draws from a lifelong curiosity about individual ingredients combined with extensive training in the art of finding food’s true essence and flavor. The result is simple, yet sophisticated; the best of American food tempered by classic European training.

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  • Woodworking Project Plans

    The seed is quite expensive, but well worth it.

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