Squirrels are fantastic acrobats and will go to great lengths to get what they want. Birdseed and nuts are among their favorite meal options. If you want to attract birds but deter squirrels, you have to be creative in order to outsmart the furry little geniuses. But do birds and squirrels get along?
The short answer is yes – unless they are fighting over food. One thing that birds and squirrels have in common is that they both love to eat birdseed. Due to this reason, there may be some regular battles at bird feeders if you have a lot of squirrels in the area.
These battles do not have equal matching contenders. Squirrels are larger than most backyard birds. The birds are scared off, and the squirrels are left to hog all the seeds.
Squirrels can jump more than 10 feet and are exceptional climbers and diggers. They are very intelligent, learn quickly, and will persist until they succeed. Squirrels will even claw and chew through wooden and plastic feeders to indulge in their feathered friends’ feed.
Squirrels and Birdfeeders
Good quality birdseed is just as appealing to squirrels as is it to birds. Black oil sunflower seeds, nuts, and suet are popular options for both birds and squirrels.
Squirrels are cute and fluffy and can be quite entertaining. Some people may welcome these furry mammals to their backyard. Many bird watchers will enjoy the occasional visit from a squirrel, but some may regard them as unwanted pests.
Most birds are accommodating to other birds and may share feeders with many different bird species. Squirrels, on the other hand, can have voracious appetites and dominating attitudes. They are greedy and will chase away the birds before devouring all the food. Often they will leave the feeder utterly empty with nothing left for the birds to snack on.
Author Note: Squirrels are very persistent and have been known to cause damage to plastic or wooden feeders in order to get to the delicious birdseed. Some feeders may not be fit for use again after being gnawed and clawed at.
Squirrels can also be predators and may feed on bird eggs or newly hatched chicks. For this reason, nesting birds will be less attractive to your garden if there are a lot of squirrels around.
Protecting Your Bird Feeders
There are many different ways to protect bird feeders from squirrels, depending on what feeder you have and how your garden is laid out.
Squirrels can be tricky to fool, so you may need to try a few different prevention methods. Some people have even built obstacle courses with a series of different challenges the squirrels must complete before reaching their prize – a pile of nuts!
Here are some ways to keep squirrels away from your birdfeeder
If you want to make it difficult for squirrels to get to your birdfeeder, the most important thing is location. Make sure that your backyard feeder is positioned far away from porches, gutters, wires, trees, or other launching spots. This will make it more difficult for the squirrels to get to the feeder.
A good idea is to mount your bird feeder on a smooth metal pole about 6 feet off the ground. You should prune any bushes or branches within 12 feet of the feeder back to restrict access to the feeder.
Caging Your Feeder
If you have a small backyard and cannot isolate your feeder, try putting a type of cage around it. Wrapping the feeder in chicken wire is one way to do this. Make sure you use chicken wire that has small enough holes to keep out the squirrels but big enough to allow the smaller birds to enjoy their meal in peace.
This method also helps prevent larger, bully birds, such as pigeons and starlings, from gobbling up all the food. If you don’t already have a birdfeeder, you can purchase a pre-wrapped ‘squirrel proof’ feeder locally or online.
You can buy a specially designed feeder to spin or tip if a squirrel climbs onto it. This causes the squirrel to become unbalanced and makes it very difficult to reach the food. Keep your camera handy and prepare for an acrobatics show!
Another way to challenge squirrels is to hang your feeder from a strategically placed, thin horizontal wire. Thread spinners onto the wire to make it difficult for squirrels to climb down it. Spinners can be made using short pieces of pipe, old sewing thread spools, or an empty soda bottle. When strung along the wire, the spinners will spin round if a squirrel tries to walk on them. The squirrel will tip over and fall off.
A baffle is a dome-shaped guard that can be placed above the birdfeeder for keeping squirrels out. Baffles can be purchased in your local pet store and made out of smooth plastic or metal. You can also make your own baffle if you like.
Top Tip: It’s important to ensure the baffle is at least 15 inches wide and sloped downwards at the sides so that the squirrels can’t reach around them. Many baffles are designed to spin or twirl if a squirrel or other small furry mammal jumps onto them. This keeps the squirrel off balance and unable to get to the feed.
The area below the bird feeder should be kept clean and clear. You should remove any debris or spilled seeds to prevent squirrels from scavenging close to the feeder. Seeds that are left on the ground could become old and start to rot or get contaminated. This is unhealthy for ground-feeding birds or any other animal.
If squirrels have destroyed your feeder, perhaps consider buying a specially designed squirrel-proof feeder. The feeder may have doors or hatches that are triggered to close if there is weight added. As birds are so much lighter than squirrels, they will still be able to access the feeder without trouble.
It may also be a good idea to get a bird feeder made out of metal or at least have a thick, sturdy design that squirrels can’t damage easily.
Squirrels are generally attracted to most types of birdseed. However, they don’t like the bitter taste of nyjer or safflower seed. By using these seeds in your feeders, you will still attract birds, but snack time will be over for the furry competition.
Most mammals, squirrels included, are sensitive to pepper, chili, or spicy food. Birds, however, are not. Birds are able to eat chili peppers all day without feeling any burning sensation. You can deter squirrels by sprinkling cayenne pepper, or something similar, onto the birdseed. Bear in mind that the chili spice might wash off if it rains, so you may need to top up consistently.
It is possible to buy pre-treated chili seeds or suet from some local retailers for convenience. If you are planning on sprinkling your own pepper spice on the seeds, wear gloves and avoid breathing in the fiery dust.
If you are really struggling with a squirrel problem and they are a big nuisance, you can contact the local wildlife authorities. They might have some good ideas about relocating squirrels using humane trapping methods. Make sure to follow wildlife laws and find out what the regulations are for your specific area.
Remove the Shelter
Squirrels will be less likely to take over feeders if their homes are far away. By removing possible shelter options around your house will cause squirrels to seek shelter elsewhere. Put in place preventative measures to stop squirrels nesting in old sheds, in attics, or under eaves.
What You Should Not Do
As frustrating as it may be to keep on coming up with ways to deter squirrels, there are a number of methods that you should never attempt. It’s important to remember that squirrels play their own important role in the ecosystem. Squirrels should never be hunted, poisoned, or endangered in any way.
Author Note: Setting poisoned bait out may cause not only squirrels to die, but birds and other wildlife may be killed too if they go for the bait. Raptors or eagles that prey on poisoned squirrels, or other animals, may be seriously injured or even die.
It is a bad idea to release cats on squirrels. Cats do not distinguish between prey and will just as easily go for a bird or other animal. It is also a bad idea to coat a pole in oil or grease to deter squirrels. The oil may cause illness or vulnerability if birds or other animals get coated in it.
If you cannot get the squirrels to leave, you can try removing feeders for a few days or weeks. This may temporarily force squirrels to feed elsewhere, but they will probably come back as soon as you put the feeders back. If you have tried several different techniques to deter squirrels, you may find it isn’t always possible to totally squirrel-proof a bird feeder.
A nice alternative to constantly struggling with deterring squirrels from bird feeders is to set them up to their own feeding station. Squirrels can easily be tempted with nuts, corn, and berries. Setting up an easy access squirrel take-out is a great way to ensure that the birds can feed without being interrupted.
Squirrels are part of nature and have many fascinating skills and characteristics. They have the same right to be in your garden as birds, insects, and other creatures. Squirrel watching can bring just as much joy as watching cardinals, purple martins, or finches as they go about their daily business.
In the end, there are many ways to keep squirrels away from bird feeders, but the occasional squirrel visit is to be expected.
Happy feeding and watching!