A Different Take on Pinecone Bird Feeders

Many of us probably remember making pinecone bird feeders in elementary school. Taking a pinecone, covering it with peanut butter and birdseed, wrapping it up to take home and hang from a tree branch or off your back porch. Well this recipe takes the pinecone bird feeder to a whole different level. How about a pinecone suet feeder instead?

Suet can be a good source of fuel for birds overwintering here in the north and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Citizen Science blog page has posted the following step-by-step instructions to make your very own.

And if you want to learn more about birds, Cornell has an awesome page for its Ornithology Lab that has tons of resources for you.


Easy to Make Pinecone Bird Feeders

November 7, 2014

For many, November marks the start of a season of delicious, fattening goodies! We aren’t alone in this habit, as cooler temperatures approach, many warm-blooded creatures pack on the pounds critical to survive the colder, darker, winter months. For birds, it means having access to nutrient-rich, fat-laden nuts, seeds, and even straight-up fat (like in suet). Consider making these easy to assemble pinecone suet feeders so your bird-neighbors have enough energy to survive the winter. Unlike us, they actually need that extra helping of fat this time of year!

1. Collect Pinecones

Photos © Brian

On your next walk in the woods, look for fallen pinecones. The late fall and early winter is a great time to find pinecones in the woods. If you cannot locate pinecones, you can also make suet cakes (see #10 below), which uses the same basic ingredients.


2. Attach a Wire or String

Securely attach wire or sturdy string to the top of the pinecone. Thin, “floral wire” is available at local craft stores. However, any thin wire around your home will suffice. Yarn can be effective, but it has a tendency to thread and break more easily when blown around, so your pinecone feeder may not be as sturdy once it’s hung outside.


3. Get Beef Tallow

Photos © thedabblist

At your local store, in the meat section, find a chunk of tallow (beef fat). How much you need will depend on how many feeders you are making. About one pound of tallow will yield about six small/medium sized pinecone feeders. Tallow is usually very inexpensive and one of the best forms of fats to feed to birds–it’s a better option than Crisco, which is comprised of hydrogenated oils, and firmer than peanut butter (once it cools). If you do not see tallow amongst the cut meats, ask the butcher if they have tallow chunks in the back.


4. Melt Your Tallow

Photos © Susy Morris

Slowly melt the tallow in a pan on low heat, you want the fat to melt so you can work with it. Do not overheat or overcook it. Otherwise, it might splatter and burn your skin.


5. Ready a Bowl of Bird Seed

Any heatproof bowl will do

In a large bowl or pyrex pan, pour in a thick layer of mixed birdseed, preferably one that your birds are used to feeding on.

6. Coat Your Pinecone With Tallow

Once the tallow is melted, turn it off and let it cool. Wait a few minutes until the tallow starts to become more of a glue like texture–not liquid and not solid. Then, pick-up your pinecone by the wire and drag it through the fat. Be careful, the tallow is still hot. Move the pine cone around so it is thoroughly coated, and some of the oil gets down into the scales.


7. Coat Your Pinecone With Bird Seed


Take the tallow-covered pine cone and do your best to submerge it in the bird seed. Sometimes it helps to pick-up seeds and sprinkle them over the pinecone, or push the seeds into the sticky crevices. Do this before the tallow hardens. You may have to reheat the tallow a couple of times to keep the softer texture, if you are doing multiple pinecone feeders. Before taking the pinecone out of the seed pan, lightly shake or spin it to release loose seeds.


8. Cool on Wax Paper

When you are done covering the pinecone with seeds, place it on a piece of wax-paper. If you are going to wrap-up the feeder as a gift, wax paper is best to use as your first layer, so the seed-covered pinecone does not stick to your wrapping materials.


9. Hang in a Favorite Spot!

Photos © mel issa

If you are going to put the feeder outside right away, let it firm-up on the wax paper, then transfer it to a tree you frequently see birds feeding in. If you have a bird feeder established, hanging the pinecone near your feeder will help ensure the birds find it quickly.


10. No Pinecones? Make Suet Blocks

If you are unable to access pine cones, feel free to follow the steps above and instead of putting the melted tallow on your pinecone, transfer it to a bowl of mixed bird seed. Thoroughly mix the seeds and tallow. Then, transfer the concoction into a deep pan. Spread it out so it completely covers the bottom of the pan, as though it were cake batter. Once it is hardened, you can cut out the suet cakes like large brownies!


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