Bill’s Bark Butter Recipe (2024)

I call it a “Bird Magnet”, especially for some birds that aren’t too interested in the sunflower and thistle seeds we put in most of our dozen bird feeders. Bark butter is a great addition to the regular birdfeed seeds and it didn’t take long for some of our more unusual birds to find it. Now they even seem to prefer it to the store-bought suet cakes we also offer.

Over the course of the last 15 years, I have developed a recipe for my “Bird Magnet” bark butter. About 15 years ago, when Jan and I were at a Wild Birds Unlimited store near Columbus, we purchased a small container of what was labeled “Bark Butter”. The birds loved it! It didn’t last long. But since it was a bit pricey at $12 for a small amount, I didn’t want to buy more on a regular basis. On the day I used up the very last “Bark Butter”, I decided to figure out what was in it. I examined the mixture very carefully and, of course, tasted it. From that, I created my own bark butter recipe and have been refining it ever since. The results have been fantastic!

These are the ingredients: 2.5 – 3 lb beef suet; 2 lb 8 oz (large jar) peanut butter (creamy or crunchy); and about 10 C cornmeal. To find suet nowadays, if your local grocery store doesn’t stock it, talk with a real butcher at an independent butcher shop or other such outlet. Jan buys it from the farmer who sells us our pasture-raised beef. The peanut butter and cornmeal can be any brand, but I try to avoid unnecessary ingredients in the peanut butter.

Bill’s Bark Butter Recipe (1)

Here’s what I do. First, render (melt) the suet in a large pot, covered with a lid, over LOW heat. The rendering can take 2-3 hours or more. Don’t be in a hurry! If the heat is too high, the suet will begin to burn and your kitchen will soon be full of smoke and the smell of burnt suet. Opening the windows will eventually get rid of the smoke and, after about a week, the smell will dissipate. To Jan’s chagrin, I have made that mistake. I usually make my bark butter while she is shopping (so the kitchen is free for a long time) and one day she came home to quite a surprise.

Bill’s Bark Butter Recipe (2)

There will be parts of the suet that will not completely melt and they should be removed as soon as possible after the fat around them is melted off. If you wait too long, they will begin to burn and yep — smoke and burnt suet smell (not quite as much as rendering on a high heat). Again, I know because I’ve made that mistake, too.

Bill’s Bark Butter Recipe (3)

The next two steps are pretty straight-forward. Turn the heat off and move the pot of rendered suet from the hot burner. Add large spoonfuls of peanut butter, stirring after each several spoonfuls, until all the peanut butter and liquid suet are mixed together. Next add the cornmeal, a cupful at a time, stirring after each cupful, until about 10 cups have been added. As you might guess, the recipe is somewhat flexible depending on what you have available and the texture you want in your final product. Don’t be surprised to see the cornmeal settling to the bottom.

Next I pour the slightly-cooled mixture into the two containers pictured below, being sure the settling cornmeal is appropriately divided between the two. The larger container is a gallon milk jug with part of the top area cut out, leaving the handle.

I set the containers in a sink containing a couple inches of cold water and ice. This will help the bark butter solidify more quickly. Check the bark butter every 5 minutes or so and stir as needed to spread the cornmeal. The ingredients will separate if you don’t stir the mix periodically, but once the bark butter is almost solidified it won’t have to be stirred. (Be sure to remove the spoon between stirrings when it’s almost cool!)

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I use the Bill’s Bird Magnet bark butter in two ways. Most of it is used simply as a bird feeder food to attract birds for Jan’s and my enjoyment (and Project Feederwatch counting). The feeder is a log with holes drilled 3/4 to 1 inch into it to hold the bark butter.

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A number of birds visit our bark butter feeder.

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Bill’s Bark Butter Recipe (8)
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There are not many easy ways to attract Eastern Bluebirds, but during extreme winter weather they regularly visit our bark butter feeder. Once they discover how much they like it, they begin visiting more often, especially later in the winter when their natural food sources are dwindling. (Note on feeding mealworms to Eastern Bluebirds: knowledgeable sources now say that offering mealworms continuously will skew the nutrition of bluebirds, so limiting the amount of mealworms offered each day will encourage the bluebirds to consume a good variety of nutrients.)

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The other way I use my bark butter is on two large tree snags I have buried upright in the ground specifically for my bird photography. The following photos show how I set up the snags.

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The snags are large branches that fell from a big Black Locust Tree in our back meadow.

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In the winter, on cold, snowy days, I spread bark butter into selected places in the bark of the snags. Then I set my camera on a tripod in the house and shoot through our large bird picture windows.

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The photos below are a few that I have set up with the bark butter. The bark butter doesn’t really show, but the birds are perfectly positioned for the camera.

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My bark butter stays well all winter long in our barely-heated sun porch. When the days get warmer in the spring and I stop feeding birds so much, I put any leftover bark butter in the refrigerator to wait for the cold, late fall weather when birds will again need the extra nutrition and calories of bark butter and we will enjoy watching them.

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Bill’s Bark Butter Recipe (2024)


Does bark butter work? ›

Bark butter attracts different birds

When I made the log feeder for bark butter, we started getting different birds in our yard in addition to the birds that love the domed feeder. Some birds prefer to climb on the bark of trees and look for food and insects.

What birds like bark butter bits? ›

Bark Butter Bird List
  • Ducks. Muscovy Duck. Mallard. ...
  • Quail & Chukar. California Quail. Gambel's Quail. ...
  • Pheasant & Turkey. Ring-necked Pheasant. ...
  • Pigeons & Doves. Band-tailed Pigeon. ...
  • Hummingbirds. Ruby-throated Hummingbird. ...
  • Woodpeckers & Sapsuckers. Lewis's Woodpecker. ...
  • Parrots (feral) Yellow-chevroned Parakeet.
  • Vireo. White-eyed Vireo.

What can you do with bark butter? ›

Bark Butter is a spreadable suet that can be easily smeared on tree bark or a Bark Butter Feeder to attract birds such as chickadees, nuthatches, catbirds, cardinals, mockingbirds, wrens, woodpeckers, towhees, Brown Creepers, grosbeaks, robins and more.

What are the ingredients in Jim's Birdacious bark butter? ›

Ingredients: Rendered beef suet, soy oil, roasted peanuts, corn, oats and calcium carbonate.

What is bark butter made of? ›

Bark Butter is a pre-made product you can purchase, and if you want to DIY it, there's a recipe for this mix that features peanut butter, oats, and a few other yummy-to-birds ingredients. The first ingredient in the pre-made version is suet (beef, lamb, or mutton fat), and similarly, the DIY version features lard.

Do squirrels eat bark butter? ›

And now we offer Hot Pepper Bark Butter, a food your birds will love, but squirrels and other critters ... not so much. Use a bark butter feeder, or spread Hot Pepper Bark Butter directly on the tree and watch the birds enjoy it while the squirrels leave it alone.

Is bark butter safe for birds? ›

While many of our common nut and seed-eating birds will love Bark Butter – birds like woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and jays – this food is also one of your best options for attracting something new to your feeders.

Does bark butter freeze? ›

The freezer method: You can either put the Bark Butter in the freezer for a while just to harden it up and help it keep it's shape during transfer, then pack it into the cookie cutter and put the shape you've made onto tree.

Do woodpeckers like bark butter? ›

What Foods Do They Eat? They like to eat suet, suet blends, Bark Butter, peanuts, tree nuts, mealworms, Seeds: sunflower, sunflower chips, cracked corn, fruits, and nectar.

Where do you put bark butter? ›

Bark Butter is a spreadable suet that can be smeared on trees or Bark Butter feeder.

Do sparrows eat bark butter? ›

Bill told us that the sparrows “hovered in place like hummingbirds,” to get at the bark butter.

Is bark edible for humans? ›

While tree bark may not usually seem like the most appetizing food source, it will provide sustenance and keep you alive, and it can be tasty too. Historically tree bark has been used as food around the world. In Scandanavia a traditional bread is made using the ground inner bark of pine trees mixed with rye flour.

Can I feed birds peanut butter? ›

Peanut butter is a good high-protein food for birds, and they can eat any of the same types humans do. If you're buying it specifically for birds, look for natural or organic types with the fewest additives. Try offering crunchy peanut butter for an extra nutty treat.

Is bark butter good for birds? ›

Bark butter is a mix of suet and ground nuts. Since it has suet in it, it's more calorically dense than seeds and it doesn't have the mess. You can spread it onto tree bark so essentially it makes any tree a bird feeder. Everyone raves about how easy it is and the diversity of birds it gets.

Can I make my own suet for birds? ›

You can easily make your own homemade suet at home with simple ingredients such as animal fat, peanut butter, cornmeal, flour, and bird seed. *While potentially safe to eat, this is NOT for human consumption!


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