Squirrels can be a challenging bird feeder pest. To begin with, they’re incredibly cute, so it can be difficult to get too angry at them as they scamper up to your feeders. However, your blood may start to boil as they devour all the food you’ve put out for birds. That bird seed is supposed to be for birds, after all, not fuzzy bandits. Squirrels are smart, athletic and persistent, so you often need to present a variety of obstacles to deter them from your feeders. Here are just a few ideas:
1. Squirrel Proof Your Bird Feeder. If you already have a bird feeder up and are seeing frequent visits by squirrels, you may need to reassess your set up. Squirrels are great jumpers, so raise your feeder 4 feet from the ground and at least 12 feet from objects that allow them to leap to your feeders. These “launch pads” include roofs, fences, tree branches, utility lines and even parked cars.
Another helpful feeder add-on is a squirrel baffle. These clear plastic domes are made to block squirrels from climbing up poles or down hanging lines. They’re also slippery, so a squirrel that lands on one slips off and falls to the ground.
2. Use Thistle or Safflower Seed. You can also change the bird seed you use. Squirrels love sunflower seeds, peanuts and mixed seed, the most common bird food available. They are not fans of thistle (nyjer) seed or safflower seed, which many bird species will eat. Northern Cardinals love safflower seed.
Another way you can thwart the squirrels, is to mix cayenne powder in with your regular bird seed. This hot spice keeps squirrels away but birds don’t even notice it.
3. Pick the Right Feeder. Look for feeders that include weight-activated shutoffs. These feeders allow birds to feed normally, but when a squirrel climbs on them the trigger activates, and the food is sealed inside until the squirrel leaves the feeder.
Other options include caged feeders, which allow small birds to reach the bird seed, but not squirrels. Some feeders also have built in squirrel baffles or perches that collapse under the squirrel’s weight.