Stackable Snacks For The Birds

We are still snow bound. Last week, I thought the snow might be on the verge of melting for the last time of the season. Silly me. On Tuesday, we got another 8″. It is melting again, but slowly.

Chicago snow
Our latest snowfall. Chicago is not ready for spring.

So not very much to be done in the garden right now. Instead, I can fiddle with my bird feeding operation.

Yesterday, I bought some cylinders of nuts, seed, and dried fruit bound together with gelatin. These go under the product name “Stackables”, which sounds a  lot like “Snackables”, pre-packaged lunches for grade schoolers you can buy at the grocery. We bought Snackables for a while, but they were expensive and probably unhealthy. Naturally, our kids loved them.

Red Breasted Nuthatch inspects our new Stackables.
Red Breasted Nuthatch inspects our new Stackables.

The similarity in names is probably not a coincidence. Our interest in backyard bird feeding intensified greatly once our kids had moved out of the house, and I don’t think we are alone in that.

Stackables are sold by Wild Birds Unlimited, which provides something in the way of bona fides. They have holes through the center, and you slide them onto the central pole of a bell-feeder, which I already owned. The packaging claims that Stackables are attractive to Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Grosbeaks, Catbirds, and others.

I wanted to try out the Stackables as a replacement for the shelled peanuts that I put out during the winter. Shelled peanuts are very popular with Nuthatches and Woodpeckers. They’re also very popular with Starlings, Grackles, and House Sparrows, and I’d guess 80% of the peanuts were eaten by these nuisance birds.

Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker helps himself to some suet.

The nuisance birds also eat from the cylinders, but supposedly get a smaller share because they have to work harder to get the parts they like. I’m a little skeptical, but we’ll see.

Another advantage of the cylinders is that you don’t need to keep 20 lb. sacks on your porch, as you do with shelled peanuts. Also, they’re supposed to provide a better look at the birds, as they have to stay on the feeder longer in order to get what they want.

Other foods we provide include suet, sunflower, peanuts in the shell, and nyjer seed. Peanuts in the shell are popular with Cardinals and Bluejays, but they provide little of interest for the nuisance birds. Nuthatches and Woodpeckers will eat from peanuts in shell, though given the choice they will go for shelled peanuts. In the summer we put out grape jelly and oranges for the Orioles.

I put out the cylinders this morning. The response so far has been modest: Cardinals and Red Breasted Nuthatches have taken some bites.

This is not surprising. It usually takes a while for the birds to get used to a new food. Also, for some reason this is a slow day in general at the feeders.

Have you made any changes lately in your bird feeding practices, or are you thinking about making any changes?

17 Comments on “Stackable Snacks For The Birds

  1. Thanks for posting this! I’m going to look into these feeders. But my biggest problem is squirrels and too many trees in too small a yard. I think I have to wait for the ground to soften up and move everything…somewhere. Maybe even cut down a small tree or two. Hate to do it, but the grey squirrels will try anything and they usually succeed.

    • The feeders with the plastic bells on top can sometimes defeat the squirrels jumping from above. Also, have you ever tried the “squirrel buster” from Wild Birds Unlimited? It works pretty well.

      • I have baffles, I’ve had almost every squirrel-proof feeder invented; I’ve tried everything, but the feeders are just too close to tree limbs. That is, the Gray Squirrels are part flying squirrel. The Fox Squirrels have better manners. But I haven’t given up yet. Thanks for giving me hope.

  2. I love watching the birds at our feeders but am not as fond of the rodents that I see stopping by for a midnight snack. I put out suet, black oil sunflower, and nyjer but am considering discontinuing.

    • Plain suet does not attract rodents, and the birds you want like it just as well as the stuff mixed with peanuts. There are baffles and squirrel proof feeders you can try if you’re willing to spend the money.

  3. I love it when you talk about the birds. Its interesting to hear about the varieties you see over in your parts. I’ve put up a bird feeding contraption on a window in hopes we can get a good view of them while we are inside the house. I know they have visited because the seeds are almost finished but I still haven’t seen them visit it. Too bad! But I’m hoping to see them and get a good picture out of it!!!

  4. I am just starting back to bird feeding with suet feeders this year. I feed many naturally through native plants but know there may be supplemental feeding needed. I do not like feeding nuisance birds or squirrels either. I am looking to add more feeders for winter so these sound perfect and I will look for these.

    • Providing food for birds is a big criterion when I select plants, as well. I think it makes a big difference to the diversity of bird species that show up in your yard.

  5. Yesterday I went to buy suet and found they were made with beef!! Is beef good for birds?? That’s why I didn’t buy as I didn’t know. Do you have squirrels? How do you protect the bird food from them? That’s my main problem.

    • It’s made from beef fat, usually kidney fat. And yes, it is good for the birds that like to eat suet. It’s the closest thing to offering them grubs to eat, unless you want to spend a lot of time digging up grubs.

  6. I was just looking at that catalogue today, and remembering our own foray into their bird snacks. The birds liked them, but the squirrels went nuts! They ate the snacks and a good portion of the log feeder that held the snacks.

  7. I will have to look into the stackable feeders. We are just about ready to put up the hummingbird feeders and take down the suet cakes…they melt even if they are supposed not to melt. We don’t have a Wild Birds Unlimited in town, will look online.

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