Although seed-stealing squirrels are often infuriating to backyard bird enthusiasts, you can keep them out of your feeders by installing a dedicated squirrel-feeding station and filling your bird feeders with seed that squirrels do not like. If this does not work, you can restrict their access to the feeder by using some type of barrier. Squirrels are gifted problem solvers, so a combination of these strategies is often necessary.
Vary the Menu
Switching foods can help alleviate your squirrel problems. For example, instead of stocking bird feeders with sunflower seeds, switch to safflower seeds. Safflower seeds are relished by titmice, chickadees, cardinals and grosbeaks, but squirrels usually avoid them. Squirrels also tend to ignore nyjer seeds – which are also known as thistle seeds – but goldfinches, redpolls, doves and downy woodpeckers consume them eagerly. Additionally, white proso millet seeds are popular with doves, but squirrels usually find them unpalatable.
Give a Squirrel a Nut
If you provide the squirrels with an easy and delicious food source, they are unlikely to go raid your bird feeders. Some of their favorite foods include raw peanuts, sunflower seeds and whole or cracked corn. While squirrels do not hesitate to pick food up off the ground, you should avoid simply scattering food there, as this is likely to attract rodents. Instead, install a commercial squirrel feeder. While bird feeders should be placed at least 10 feet away from any tree, bush or building to keep squirrels away, it's best to locate squirrel feeders in places squirrels can easily access.
Baffles and Other Barriers
Baffles are circular, dome-shaped barriers that prevent squirrels from accessing your feeders. You can place a baffle on the pole beneath the bird feeder or on the wire above a suspended feeder. If you do not want to purchase a baffle, you can build your own from a two-liter plastic bottle. Simply cut the bottom off the bottle, thread the wire or post through the center of the bottle’s mouth and secure it in place with duct tape. You may need to adjust the distance between the baffle and the feeder to obtain the best results. Other types of barriers may be effective – placing empty thread spools along the wire leading to the feeder often deters squirrels from climbing wires.
While it is not the prettiest solution, enclosing your feeders in a chicken wire "cage" is an effective way of keeping the squirrels from eating your seed. The idea is that small birds will fly right through the gaps in the wire, but the squirrels will be unable to reach the feeder. The exact design of the cage will vary from one feeder to the next. Because the squirrels will still be able to reach through wire, construct your cage so the wire is six to 12 inches away from the seed. Commercial feeder cages are available if you do not want to make your own.
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- National Wildlife Federation: Tips for Outwitting Squirrels
- Doctors Foster and Smith: How to Baffle Squirrels
- Wild Birds Unlimited: Top 5 Things to Know about Niger Seed
- Yankee Magazine: How to Keep Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders | Simple Solutions
- HumaneSociety.org: Squirrels and Bird Feeders
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