Squirrel Proofing The Bird Feeders

Squirrel Proofing The Bird Feeders

Introduction

In researching strategies and methods of squirrel proofing bird feeders, we found Roger Chilson to be the ideal source of information. He is this blog’s go-to resource on creating a bird and urban wildlife friendly home environment. He first starts off describing the problem of squirrels in the bird yard and then provides some solutions that follow.

The squirrel’s large appetite and their preference for food is what generates the problem of squirrels in the bird yard. Firstly with the bigger appetite, and the squirrel are more expensive to feed than the birds. Secondly, they prefer the larger sunflower seeds, which many of the birds also prefer. So what is left for the birds is not on par with the original feed?

Another problem with the squirrel feeding habits is that they scatter the feed, and it is more prone to waste. Furthermore, when the feed is spread on the ground, it attracts larger quantities of doves on the ground. Isolated, that is helpful because the doves are attractive and need to eat also. Unfortunately, they also happen to be the favorite food for hawks, and they are more vulnerable when feeding on the ground in flocks. Before long, the bird yard can become a kitchen for the hawks as well as the songbirds. Hawk predation is a natural phenomenon, and it will occasionally occur regardless of the birder’s efforts. However, encouraging them to prey on the bird yard’s guest is not recommended. Of course, anti-collision decals for windows are helpful, but so is managing squirrels, and that is the subject of this article.

Solutions:

Placement for Squirrel Proofing Bird Feeders:

Feeder proximity and placement is the best and cheapest solution to squirrel proofing the bird feeders. The feeders illustrated in the photograph below show how location can be a complete solution. The illustrated feeders are hung from an 18-foot eve and are sufficient distance from any jump-off location. They have been disrupted in the past by jumps from the antenna tower, but no successful squirrel theft has ever been observed. This solution is free and has been 100 percent successful. However, it is not often that this proximity solution is available.

Feeders Protected by Placement
Rarely but sometimes feeders can be protected from squirrels by strategic placement.

Not only can proximity of the bird feeder be a complete solution to the squirrel problem, but it is also an essential component in many of the other solutions. Those components will be addressed in the alternate solutions below.

Suet Cages for Squirrel Proofing Bird Feeders

Suet cages are necessary for excluding squirrels from the woodpecker feed, and they also remind one of the diversity among bird species. Not only does the suet segregate the squirrels, but it also prevents the Woodpeckers from even becoming a nuisance. It does not take long observing woodpeckers at the feeders to realize that they will throw all of the smaller seed aside to find the sunflower seed. Thus they become as big of a problem as the squirrels. By addressing their preferences and needs, the bird yard becomes a more friendly bird yard.

The Suet Cage
The suet cage protects the suet from squirrels and other offenders.

Baffles Squirrel Proof the Bird Feeders

Roger declares the baffle to be his favorite form of squirrel control. For one thing, he likes an open platform style of the feeder, and the baffle is the best way of excluding squirrels from this design. He also impresses the fact that baffles come in cylinder shape and cone shape. The squirrel cylinder baffle is usually around six inches in diameter and about 14 inches in length. They are generally used on pole feeders and placed below the feeder and about chest high below the feeder as shown below.

The Cylinder Baffle
The cylinder baffle does a good job of protecting feeders from below.

Again we see the importance of proximity in baffle placement. If the baffle is placed chest high (about four feet from the ground) so the squirrels will not be able to jump over the baffle and cling to the pole.

A note should be injected here about the raccoon intrusions. Baffles can also be successful in excluding raccoons from the bird feeders. The only unique precaution is that baffles to eliminate raccoons are typically about 8 inches in diameter and 28 inches in length.

Cone shaped baffles can also be successful at excluding squirrels and can be used below the feeder as with the cylinder baffle. A definite advantage of the cone baffle is that they can protect the hanging feeder from above. Baffles placed above feeders are especially helpful for feeders hung from trees.

The Shield Baffle
The shield baffle can protect the bird feeder from above or below.

Again a precaution must be made regarding placement and proximity of the feeder and baffle. Any feeder should be 9-10 feet from any launching position that might allow a lateral jump. Hanging feeders with baffles placed above them should be minimally three feet from any launching position above them.

Squirrel Proof Feeders Exclude the Squirrels

Often when baffles are not a convenient solution to the squirrel issue, squirrel proof feeders are used. As a matter of fact, they will commonly be used in combination with baffles to ensure exclusion. Typically, they squirrel proof feeder has a sliding roosting perch that will slide down under the weight of a squirrel or a big bird. The feeder perch will also be attached to sliding door that will close off the entrance to a bird-feeding hole when the perch is pressed downward. Usually, these feeders will have a tension control that can be adjusted so that they will trigger under different weights.

One downside to the squirrel proof feeder is the price. Roger also is quick to caution about mechanical devices with moving parts. He says that the moving parts are usually the first areas to break down.

Safflower Seed Automatically Squirrel Proof the Bird Feeder

One unique solution that Roger presents to exclude squirrels from the bird yard is the use of safflower seed. It is unique in that most birds will eat the grain, but squirrels will not.

Distractions: Feed the squirrels appropriately

As a final suggestion, Rogers says to feed the squirrels. Yes feed the squirrels, but feed them away from the bird feeders and feed them corn. The squirrels will eat the corn, especially if it is accessible. Some birds will eat the corn, but it is cheaper than most of the mixed seed, and by segregating the birds and squirrels there is less waste.

The Host

Roger Chilson took the illustrated photographs at his home site in North Central Florida. Roger supports one of the most urban wildlife and bird-friendly home sites available in the area. Additionally, he is a wealth of information on bird-related issues that are associated with the Eastern part of the United States. Furthermore, he does not hesitate to reach out to contacts he has at the University of Florida for technical answers. Roger will be our forum expert on the noted subjects. Roger has a website at skyblue43.wordpress.com filled with photographs from his yard.

Summary

Several issues make squirrels a problem in the bird yard. They consume more of the feed than the birds, and they scatter much of it on the ground. Poor management might also make some of the birds, especially the doves, more vulnerable to hawk predation. Proper management requires knowledge of bird habits and understanding of the successful methods of control. One of the main benefits of a consistent and well-managed bird feeding system it the excellent opportunities it provides for photographing the happy subjects. Likewise, some of the pleasures of a well-managed bird yard are not capable of being captured in a photograph and must be simply appreciated.

We are certainly interested in other solutions to this issue, and they can be shared via our forum at https://mkapub.com/forums/.

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