Out of all the problems you may encounter while feeding your backyard birds, marauding squirrels are likely the source of your biggest headaches. If your bird feeder isn’t properly located or protected, then these critters can likely have a field day stealing seeds from your birds to eat for themselves. You can prevent many of these headaches, however, if you’re aware of the most effective ways to thwart squirrels’ attempts at seed theft.
On a bare pole-mounted feeder, all a squirrel has to do is shimmy up the pole and hop on to the feeder in order to take its share of seed. In order to avoid this particular problem, it would help to have a baffle located directly under the feeder. It’s important that it be positioned there so that squirrels can’t simply climb up unimpeded, or jump up to a piece of exposed pole above the baffle and continue climbing. With a baffle affixed onto or even sometimes built into the pole—such as in a downward-tapered shape—squirrels won’t be able to get more than a foot or two off the ground, leaving the seed safe.
Possibly the most visibly recognizable way to stop squirrels from stealing bird seed, baffles hung over the top of feeders are a diverse group of objects that all share one thing in common—squirrels just can’t solve them to get past and steal seed. Top-used baffles can be shaped like a dome, angled like a cone or simply flat but extra-wide, and they stop squirrels in a variety of ways—whether by sending them sliding completely off or making them unable to reach anything even by hanging off the edge. Whatever the case, baffles hung over your feeder are extremely effective at keeping your seed in the feeder for your birds.
The wire grids that can be found surrounding some tube feeders aren’t just for providing extra perching space—they also provide another layer of protection against squirrels. These grids have openings that are big enough for smaller songbirds to squeeze through, but far too small for squirrels to do the same. Additionally, the cages have a wide-enough diameter and extend far enough away from the feeder that squirrels can’t even reach through and reach the seed. They’re sturdy enough that they can’t be warped or damaged by frequent squirrel theft attempts.
This is paramount when using a pole-mounted feeder. Optimally, the feeder should be located at least 10 feet away from anything else – whether that’s a tree branch, your deck or another feeder. Any closer and most squirrels will be able to jump from the other object on to the feeder, free to take as many seeds as they want. Since unwittingly giving squirrels a head start on stealing bird seed is not the best idea, it would certainly do well to isolate any pole-mounted feeders that you have.
Their Own Feeders
Another strategy is simply to draw squirrels completely away from the bird feeders with their own feeders. With their own preferred kinds of food –wildlife snack mixes and ears of corn—offered at these feeders, squirrels have no reason to bother trying to steal bird seed. Birds aren’t interested in those foods, so the squirrels can eat peacefully by themselves. These feeders come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you can use as many as needed to get the job done without making your yard look too redundant.
These are useful features that can be found on many popular bird feeders. Frequently adjustable, they are spring-activated perches that pull down when sat, perched or hung on by an animal heavier than a given weight—which are usually squirrels. When the perches pull down, a seed shield drops down over the feeding port to cut off access to the seed inside. Thwarted and possibly bounced to the ground by the sudden drop, the squirrel leaves without having taken anything.
Found any other squirrel-resisting strategies that work, or have a good story about baffling a squirrel? Feel free to share in the comments!
– By Sean Peick (Guest Writer)
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