February 08, 2004

Squirrels and the bird feeder

I'm seriously tempted to buy one of these.

We keep a stocked bird feeder in our back yard, and there's nothing more relaxing than sitting quietly on the swing and watching the birds come and go. We bought a book on birds of the mid-Atlantic states so we could identify our little friends, and we now recognize almost two dozen regular visitors.

Of course, the squirrels and I match wits constantly, and I often win. They destroyed one feeder by gnawing through the line holding it up in the tree, so I replaced it with another hung with plastic-coated braided wire. That was fun to watch, because they chewed through the plastic, then figured out it hurt to bite the wire.

When I moved the feeder to a pole away from the tree, they learned to make dive-bomber leaps from overhanging branches, grabbing at the feeder as they hurtled by. With practice, they've improved their accuracy and success rate, but it has to hurt when they miss.

Up to now, common practice has been to hang on to the feeder and rake the seed to the ground below, searching for the occasional sunflower seed like a kid going for the peanuts in a box of cracker-jacks.

But now, one of them has accidentally stumbled upon the secret of the new feeder, and they've learned how to hit the jackpot at will.

I hate being bested by a rodent. I don't even have the blessings of the Dalai Lama going for me.

Posted by Ted at February 8, 2004 07:36 AM
Category: Boring Stories

Damn clever, those rodents. Betcha they figure out how to beat the 'squirrel-proof' feeders sooner or later.

Posted by: Victor at February 8, 2004 10:06 AM

After years of losing the squirrel battle - including several "squirrel proof feeders, my neighbor acheived success. He hung an ordinary feeder on a wire from a tree. About 10 inches above the feeder he suspended a used blade from a curcurlar saw! The squirrels would make it down the wire to the blade but quickly learned that there wa no way past that point.

The squirrels were left withnothing but to hunt for what the birds might have dropped below.

He later replaced the blade with a smooth sheet of metal without a shrp edge. The suirrels could get to that, but if they trid to get to the edge their weight would cause it ti tip and would nothing to hold onto they would fall to the ground.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at February 8, 2004 11:36 AM

I've heard of similar tactics using a castaway vinyl record, but in this day and age of CD's I don't know how successful you'd be at finding the materials. But the circular saw blade sounds like an even MORE effective idea!

Another friend of mine did something similar with a large downward-pointing cone of sheet-metal that hung over the feeder. The squirrels would try to stand on it but would slide right off the cone, well beyond any reach of the feeder, and onto the distant ground below. It not only kept the fuzzy-tailed tree rats away, it also kept the rain off the feeder--and off of any birds who stopped by to eat.


Posted by: Denita TwoDragons at February 8, 2004 02:07 PM

I just bought a bird feeder, but I haven't hung it up yet because I am to lazy to trek through the snow to my tree. When the snow melts I will hang it up, but I hope I don't have as many problems as you od Ted.

Posted by: Rocket Man Blog at February 8, 2004 06:29 PM

Rocket Man, make sure you make it easy to refill. Our very first feeder needed me to climb a small ladder to do that. What a pain.

So far I've seen two types of 'automatic' squirrel-proof feeders. Both types use the weight of the squirrel, one closes a contact which electrifies the tray (uses batteries), the other closes the access to the seed.

I don't mind the squirrels too much. They only eat the sunflower seeds, and the birds have learned to look around at the base of the feeder for seeds. Plus, they live in my neighbor's attic, and he's a jerk. ;)

Posted by: Ted at February 8, 2004 08:43 PM

Thanks for the tips Ted. I had planned on hanging it about head level so I could reach it. I guess I will have to play around with it over time to see how it works out.

Posted by: Rocket Man Blog at February 9, 2004 02:07 AM

The other consolation to keep in mind as the damn squirrels hoover out your feeder is that they don't eat what they harvest - at least not right away. Most of it goes into the cheek pouches to be stashed away in some hiding place for later. Fortunatley the poor buggers have really lousy memories, so the birds usually get to the stash first anyway. A more roundabout route, but the birds do benefit in the end.


Posted by: Light & Dark at February 9, 2004 08:27 PM

I was going to do an entry on this subject! Now you have beaten me to it.

1. Don't get a wooden feeder - they are useless and squirrels will chew them. Also they are harder to clean.

2. Don't hang your feeder from a tree. Get a pole from Wild birds unlimited with a baffle to prevent squirrels and racoons from climbing up. Place the pole far away enough from a tree so that squirrels can't jump to it. Birds will like it because they don't like the feeders to be so close to a tree that they can't see cats or hawks hiding there.

3 buy a squirrel proof (weight activated) feeder. This can also be used to control larger birds if you have a lot of starlings.

4 Get a dog. My dog has huge prey drive and is more than happy to chase squirrels away.

5 Set up a diversion feeder. One far away from your main feeder and fill it with corn (squirrels love corn). The squirrels will congregate there.

BTW:Ted my yard species count since October 15th when I moved here is 27 species.

Can ya beat it?

Posted by: The Meatriarchy at February 10, 2004 02:53 PM

Our wooden bird feeder has lasted longer than any other before. The squirrels do chew on it some, but not too bad. Also, I don't clean them very often. Once in a while if we've had a long rain we'll get some seeds sprouting at the bottom of the tray, that I'll scrape out and take a quick brush to to prevent mold.

I like the idea of diversion feeders. Unfortunately, my yard is small and completely overhung with a giant maple, so the dive bombing continues no matter where I hang the feeder.

We don't have a problem with Starlings, but we get lots of doves and pigeons at times. They're not agressive, but tend to chase the other birds away because they're so much bigger and come in flocks.

The dogs love chasing the squirrels. :D

I'll start a list of what we've seen and post it soon, hopefully I get find some links to pictures. I don't know if we seen quite that much variety, but it has been wonderful.

Posted by: Ted at February 11, 2004 10:54 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Site Meter