WILD ABOUT BIRDS: Diversify food offerings to attract different birds; try Bark Butter

Larry Collins
Free Press Home & Garden Columnist

Are you tired of getting just the same old birds at your feeders? Me too!

Sometimes new birds and new fun with new birds happen with trying new foods. To really diversify the birds and bird-feeding activity in your yard, you need to diversify your foods with options like these.

In my last article, I talked about bird food cylinders. They are the quickest, most simple, and longest-lasting way to feed your birds. Bird food cylinders are available in a variety of differing types of seed. There are also suet cylinders. Both will usually meet the nutritional needs and feeding behaviors of a large number of different birds. Short food cylinders called “stackables” allow you to feed your seed- and suet-eating birds at the same time.

A new type of food on the market is called Bark Butter. It is the perfect blend of fat and protein in a spreadable suet form. No other single bird food attracts a greater variety of species; more than 100 bird species and counting nationwide. Bark Butter can be fed in a peanut butter feeder (a feeder with numerous holes to fill with food) or you can just spread the Bark Butter directly on the bark of your tree.

A cousin to Bark Butter is called Bark Butter Bits. It has the same ingredients as the spreadable Bark Butter but comes in a convenient nugget form that the birds devour. It can be offered to your birds in any of your bird feeders and can be fed straight or added to seed blends.

Of course, there is the tried and true suet type of food which happens to be a woodpeckers’ favorite. Suet is a high-energy, pure-fat substance that most birds enjoy particularly in winter when they need more calories to stay warm. I have found suet to be positional. I can offer it in one place in my backyard and have no takers; but move it to another spot and the birds seem to discover it. Some people, especially those that live at higher elevations, are successful in feeding suet all year long. I seem to have better luck during the winter.

Another bird food that you may find successful is mealworms. They attract common and uncommon insect-eating birds, especially bluebirds and wrens. Offer some in a smooth-sided feeder each morning and/or evening as a treat for your birds. If you live on some acreage or your backyard opens into a large open area, you may be able to attract some bluebirds, but they normally don’t come to a feeder in a subdivision in this part of the country.

You might also have success attracting insect-eating birds in the winter by offering fruit. Try cutting up some raisins or grapes for the birds. People have been able to attract insect-eating as well as fruit-eating birds successfully in the winter. Not only have I attracted birds with fruit, but I have flocks of robins and waxwings fighting over the crabapples in my yard.

Peanuts are the best single source of protein and fat for birds. Some birds will cache them to retrieve later, making repeated trips to feeders to gather food. I live in a subdivision close to town so I offer peanuts when trying to attract birds such as Scrub and Steller’s Jays. You can offer either shelled peanuts or peanuts in the shell. Make sure they are unsalted. You may also find chickadees and nuthatches eating peanuts.

Try a different type of bird food and see if you, too, can attract something new and fun.

Local bird expert Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50, which caters to folks who want the best backyard birdfeeding experience possible. Email your birdfeeding and birding questions to and he’ll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column in the Free Press.

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