Squirrels may seem cute and fuzzy, but they can be treacherous pests when bird feeders are involved. Not only will squirrels eat all the food, but they may cause severe damage to the feeder in their quest for a meal. Fortunately, there are easy ways every backyard birder can keep squirrels away from their bird feeding stations.
5 Steps for Squirrel-Free Bird Feeding
Every birder's yard will eventually be visited by squirrels, but taking the appropriate steps to keep these bushy-tailed guests at bay is simple.
- Use All-Metal Feeders
Squirrels are industrious chewers, and between their sharp teeth and claws, they can damage wooden or plastic feeders with ease. Selecting sturdy, all-metal feeders will help deter squirrels, particularly if the feeders include a cage or mesh around the feeding ports to keep squirrels away from the seed.
- Position Feeders Appropriately
These long-tailed rodents are agile jumpers, able to leap up to 10 feet to get to a feeder. To keep squirrels away from feeders, the feeders should be mounted on smooth metal poles at least six feet high and 12 feet away from tree trunks, branches or bushes where squirrels may leap from.
- Protect Feeders With Baffles
When squirrels do manage to get to a feeder, a good baffle can tip them off right away. Baffles should be positioned both above and below feeders, and opting for loose, spinning or tipping baffles will provide enough of an unstable surface that squirrels cannot get a good grip to access the feeder.
- Offer Foods Squirrels Don't Like
Squirrels may try a wide range of different foods and are happy to eat most types of birdseed, but they don't care for bitter seeds such as safflower or Nyjer (thistle). Choosing a hot pepper blend for suet or mixed birdseed can also keep squirrels away from the harsh taste and smell, but birds don't mind the flavor.
- Clean Up Quickly
Birds are messy eaters and spill a lot of seed on the ground. While some backyard birders prefer to let squirrels clean up, that can also lead to squirrels trying to get to the feeder and eventually it may be harder to discourage them. Cleaning up spilled seed right away will eliminate that unintentional food source and encourage squirrels to move on.
The best way to discourage squirrels is to use several techniques at once to make the bird feeders very difficult to access. Changing tactics occasionally can keep squirrels from adapting and ensures squirrel-free feeding so every bird has a safe place to eat without competing with unwanted furry guests.