Try as we might, there’s always a Tupperware bowl or plastic zip lock of something left too long in the bottom of the refrigerator to trust. I like the old saying….when in doubt, throw it out. However, this time of year, many people enjoy feeding birds during the winter, providing them with a variety of seeds as well as suet. But you can supplement these traditional bird foods with some scraps from your table.
Old stale cheese is a good choice and you can add them to your suet mixtures. Mild cheese is better than strong- or sharp-flavored types. No matter how you offer the cheese, mixed with suet or alone, be sure to crumble it into small enough pieces for the birds to eat.
While breads aren’t the best food choice for birds, they will help satisfy their appetites. They’ll eat bread crusts and crumbs as well as items such as stale cake. Be sure to crumble these thoroughly.
Cooked fats and meats are popular with some types of birds. You can mix these in suet mixtures or offer alone. But be sure to offer them only in cold weather to prevent them from becoming rancid. Suet, bacon and other morsels should be put in a wire basket out of reach of pets and scavengers. I’ve also used pine cones and stuffed them with discarded fats and hang them from tree limbs.
Fruit will attract many birds and can be an important food source. Fruit that’s seen better days, including apples, oranges, and pears, can be cut in small portions and offered on a tray feeder. Or you might stick a wooden skewer through the middle and hang it from a branch, giving birds a handy perch to nibble from.
Other small animals in your yard may be attracted to your bird-feeding stations, especially if you offer meat or suet. Possible other diners include squirrels, chipmunks, opossums and raccoons. If you prefer to exclude these visitors, try to discourage them with items such as squirrel baffles that fit around feed station posts and by placing them in locations not easily reached.