How to make fat balls for birds – The Natural History Museum

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Our homemade fat ball bird feeder is fun and easy to make with kids. Fat balls make excellent winter food for birds.
With this pine cone design, you won’t need a separate fat ball holder.
Keep watch to see which birds visit your fat balls. If you can, record your sightings in a nature journal. You might also like to take photos to share with friends or to take part in The Big Garden Birdwatch.

A great tit visiting one of our homemade fat balls
We’d love to see photos of you making your fat balls or your finished results. Please share your photos with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using #NHMatHome.

Fat ball recipes can be very simple. The ingredients above produce a high energy food that will benefit your local birds in cold weather. You could also add in some raisins, currants, sultanas, small pieces of apple or pear, or grated cheese if you have any spare. Crushed peanuts are also an option, as long as they are unsalted and in date.
You can use suet instead of lard, if you prefer, so fat balls are sometimes called suet cakes.
You could also use single-ingredient peanut butter, with no added oils. But don’t use peanut butter containing artificial sweeteners or added salt.
Adding these extra ingredients can be a way of reducing food waste and helping birds at the same time, but don’t feel you have to add these other things.
The RSPB website has more advice on what foods are safe for birds.
Fat balls will be particularly appreciated by garden birds in winter, when they need foods packed with energy to survive cold weather. Small birds such as robins are particularly at risk from the cold and can lose a substantial amount of bodyweight overnight. If small birds to go too long without being able to replenish their fat reserves, it can be fatal.
You should avoid putting out homemade fat balls for birds in summer as they can become soft and turn rancid in warm weather. It is better to use a different type of bird feeder when it is warm, such as a seed feeder. 
Fat balls are likely to be a particular hit with tits and sparrows, although many hungry birds will gobble up the seeds and fat, including members of the crow family such as magpies and jackdaws and jays. Even greater-spotted woodpeckers.
In the UK, you are most likely to see blue tits, great tits, house sparrows and starlings eating fat balls. They are also a favourite food of long-tailed tits, so you could also see a flock of these delightful little birds gobbling up your fat balls, if you’re lucky enough to have some visit your garden. Robins and blackbirds will also appreciate this food, but they are predominately ground feeders, so they will mainly enjoy scraps that fall to the floor.
Here are illustrations of some common garden birds that your fat balls are likely to be popular with:

Blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus

Great tit, Parus major

Long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus

House sparrow, Passer domesticus

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
Putting out food for birds can be a great way to get to know different bird species and watch how they behave. By noting what you observe in a nature journal, you could gradually learn about birds’ food preferences and when particular species tend to visit.
You could even turn your sightings into science and help experts understand how wildlife is faring across the UK, by taking part in The Big Garden Birdwatch in January.
Above we’ve highlighted above the common bird species you’re most likely to see eating fat balls in the UK, but if you need help identifying a bird in Britain you can:
By providing a range of different foods and feeders, you’ll have the best chance of encouraging a wide variety of birds into your garden. 
… or that it helped you learn something new. Now we’re wondering if you can help us.  

Every year, more people are reading our articles to learn about the challenges facing the natural world. Our future depends on nature, but we are not doing enough to protect our life support system.  
British wildlife is under threat. The animals and plants that make our island unique are facing a fight to survive. Hedgehog habitats are disappearing, porpoises are choking on plastic and ancient woodlands are being paved over. 
But if we don’t look after nature, nature can’t look after us. We must act on scientific evidence, we must act together, and we must act now.
Despite the mounting pressures, hope is not lost. Museum scientists are working hard to understand and fight against the threats facing British wildlife. 
For many, the Museum is a place that inspires learning, gives purpose and provides hope. People tell us they ‘still get shivers walking through the front door’, and thank us for inspiring the next generation of scientists.
To reverse the damage we’ve done and protect the future, we need the knowledge that comes from scientific discovery. Understanding and protecting life on our planet is the greatest scientific challenge of our age. And you can help.  
We are a charity and we rely on your support. No matter the size, every gift to the Museum is critical to our 300 scientists’ work in understanding and protecting the natural world.  
From as little as £2, you can help us to find new ways to protect nature. Thank you.
Find out about the plants and animals that make the UK home.
Meet some of the birds you’re likely to spot in your garden during the colder months of the year.
Putting up a nesting box could be a big help to your local birds. Our simple design is ideal for small songbirds and sparrows.
Listening to some bird song can help improve our mental health.
Get tips on urban birdwatching and discover what you could see – including birds of prey and parakeets.
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