For bird lovers, the sight of a squirrel hanging off the side of a bird feeder means just one thing: war. Sure, squirrels have to eat, too, and no one wants to harm the persistent critters. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with squirrels scarfing down the seed you put out for the birds, damaging your feeders and bumping up your blood pressure. It’s possible to keep squirrels out of your bird feeder with the right seed mix and some humane squirrel-control tactics.
Choose squirrel-repelling seed
Birds, like people, are selective when it comes to food – they’ll sort through mixed seed to find what they like and ditch the rest on the ground below the feeder. Squirrels, however, are not so picky. They’ll eat the cast-offs on the ground and then move on to the good stuff in the feeder and devour that, too.
Taste aversion – serving seed that squirrels consider downright distasteful – is an effective way to keep squirrels out of bird feeders. Try a seed blend that uses hot, spicy flavor to repel squirrels while appealing to birds.
Squirrel-proof your bird feeders
Another option is to try to make the birdseed in your feeders less accessible to squirrels — although that can be hard to do since squirrels are smart problem-solvers. You may find you get the best results from a combination of the following methods.
- Locate feeders far from trees, power lines, porches or other launching points to make it more difficult for squirrels to reach the bird feeder. Remember, squirrels can jump distances of 10 feet or longer. Mounting feeders on a smooth metal pole at least 6 feet high with no surrounding branches or bushes within 12 feet may also work.
- Place a wire cage around the bird feeder with openings just large enough to admit birds but too small for squirrels to fit through. This can also help keep larger birds, such as starlings or pigeons, from accessing the feeder.
- Try specially designed bird feeders with doors that close when triggered by a squirrel’s weight on the feeder. The doors keep squirrels from reaching the seed. And if you’ve had plastic feeders gnawed to pieces by squirrels, try switching to metal, which they’ll be less likely to chew through.
Give squirrels their own food source
Sometimes you just can’t win the war and the squirrels refuse to leave. Or maybe you have a soft spot for those fluffy-tailed felons. When you can’t seem to keep squirrels out of your bird feeder, another option is to serve them something they’ll find even more appealing than bird seed.
Squirrels love whole, dried corn-on-the-cob and loose dried corn. Cole’s offers Critter Munchies, a blend of whole yellow corn, striped sunflower, peanuts in the shell, black oil sunflower and raw peanuts. Serve on an open platform-style feeder. Or place an ear of dried corn on a stick. A stake or pinecone can be coated with peanut butter.
Set up your squirrel feeding station away from bird feeders and make it as easy as possible for the squirrels to access their feeder filled with temptations like nuts, corn and berries.
If you can make peace with the squirrels by keeping them out of your bird feeders, these intelligent characters and their antics can be a welcome sight in your backyard.