About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How to keep suet fresh

We recommend keeping suet in a cool location for storage. Extra suet can be kept in a freezer to keep it fresh and make it easier to remove from the package.

Woodpeckers are some of the toughest birds in the backyard. As their name suggests, they frequently peck on the wood of trees to look for or hide tasty treats, and to build nests. In addition to drilling holes, woodpeckers will knock their heads on anything that will make a noise to send sound signals. Frozen suet wouldn’t be any challenge to woodpeckers

They can strike a tree at speeds up to 15 mph, which is enough force to create brain damage in most other birds, and certainly in our human brain. However, due to a number of adaptations, woodpeckers thrive on this heavy hitting.

First the woodpeckers' skulls are incredibly strong, yet lightweight, due to a reinforcing mesh-work of bony support struts. Their brains also sit snugly in the skull with very little cerebrospinal fluid meaning the brain won't bang around as the head moves back and forth.

Second the dense muscles in their neck and mouth contract just before impact, which transmits the impact past the brain and allows its whole body to help absorb the shock.

Clipart courtesy FCIT http://etc.usf.edu/clipart
Third the tongue starts out on top of the mouth, passes through the right nostril, between the eyes, divides in two, arches over the top of the skull and around the back part of the skull passing on either side of the neck, coming forward through the lower mouth, and uniting into a single tongue with sticky barbs on the end which can extend up to 4" from the beak. The tongue is also thought to act as an additional buffer to the brain.

Fourth there are special cells at the tip of the bill that constantly replace the lost material, keeping the bill strong and sharp.

Fifth they close an inner eyelid a millisecond before a strike comes across the bill to prevent harm from flying debris and hold the eyeball in place.

Sixth is the adaptation in their feet. They have two toes that point forward and two that point backward that allow them to cling to tree trunks. Other backyard birds have three toes forward and one in back.

Seventh the woodpeckers’ pointed tail feathers are also especially strong and rigid, and their tail bones, lower vertebrae and the tail’s supporting muscles are very large in comparison to other birds. These modifications allow a woodpecker's tail to serve as a sturdy prop that supports its weight while clinging to trees. Some Wild Birds Unlimited Suet feeders have tail props to make it more comfortable for the birds to feed.

So go ahead and fill the suet feeder and then watch these adaptations in action.

Besides the downy, hairy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers, other common birds that eat suet are chickadees, flickers, nuthatches, wrens, blue jays, titmice, and maybe even the ever popular bluebird.
 
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