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Get off my bird feeder! Are squirrels driving you nuts?

Keep an eye on your bird food – the squirrels are coming! That’s what the British Trust for Ornithology is saying, as a third more squirrels will invade our gardens this year than in the same period over the last three years.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) puts the squirrel invasion down to patchy seed and nut availability in the countryside this autumn, which means that all kinds of wildlife will be foraging for alternative food. As a result, there could be tough competition at bird feeders – not just between different bird species, but between birds and squirrels too.

Squirrels: welcome or unwanted?

This is bad news for anyone who considers squirrels to be pests, as many people don’t want to share their expensive bird food with them. Squirrels not only empty feeders at an alarming rate, but often wreck them in the process. They can even deter the boldest birds from visiting.

The BTO has suggested a few deterrents to keep squirrels away from your bird food. Try using bird feeders that have a metal guard around the food, allowing access to small birds but not squirrels or larger birds. You could try spring-loaded bird feeds, which use a squirrel’s body weight to close feeding ports when it comes to eat.

You could also try using a baffle, which are domes you attach to the feeder pole that cause squirrels to slip off. Vaseline on smooth feeder poles can have a similar effect! You could even dust chilli powder onto your bird food, turning the heat up for the squirrels while your birds won’t be affected.

Although we’d never condone it – we’ve even seen a feeder that spins when a squirrel lands on it, throwing it off.

An army of super-smart squirrels

At Which? Gardening, we have tested squirrel-proof bird feeders in the past, and some were better than others. One of our Best Buys included a weight-activated mechanism that closes the feed ports whenever a squirrel climbs on it. Another came with a round cage surrounding the feeder that excludes all but the tiniest squirrels.

Our triallists around the country have recorded the ingenious ways  squirrels avoid being caught out by some squirrel-proof feeders. For example, some sneaky squirrels avoid putting their full body weight on feeders by resting on a branch or a second bird feeder.

While some bird feeders worked well, we’d hesitate to say that any product is 100% squirrel proof. Do you think squirrel-proof bird feeders are effective? Or have you developed any ingenious methods of your own you’d like to share?

Comments
Member

I don’t think anti squirrel bird feeders exist, despite the claims from manufacturers. I’d give the feeder in your picture a couple of weeks before they’ve pulled it apart just enough to get easy access to the food.

My parents feed birds regularly, and they’ve lost 2 squirrel proof feeders to the squirrels. The feeders have been so badly butchered they no longer can hold the food.

Their solution is to fill a bird box with peanut chunks, which the squirrels have also made unsuitable by chewing through the wooden lid. But at least the squirrels and pigeons go there first, leaving the smaller birds to get at the feeder. Oddly the small birds don’t seem to like the fat ball feeder with gaps too small for large birds. Not sure why though.

Member

If the bird feeders have been damaged by squirrels then your parents could make a claim under the Sale of Goods Act, on the basis that the feeders are unfit for their purpose.

Member

Not too sure…I believe the Sale of Goods
Act may include a specific provision that
excludes that eventuality…. the parliamentary
draftsman may well have thought of that.

Member
ClareLondon says:
15 November 2012

What about the squirrels? They have to eat too.

We need to look after all creatures. I love birds. But I can’t bear to think of squirrels starving. Or foxes. Or any creature.

Member
asdfg says:
14 May 2015

uuuuh these animals have survived for a very long time without human intervention i don’t think you need to worry about squirrels not being able to eat from my bird feeder

Member
Marigold says:
1 June 2015

Did you know that the grey squirrels have wiped out the red squirrel population from much of Britain. The grey squirrel is aggressive and has spread a deadly virus, which has eradicated swathes of red squirrels. We have condoned this decimation, regarding the grey squirrel as cute rather than as a predator.
Something needs to be done to radically control their numbers as in Cumbria, where the red squirrel is able to thrive.

Member

Grey (not red) squirrels are rats with good PR and we need to get rid of them, but that’s another story. I have a bird feeder with a round cage around it that very effectively prevents squirrels from acceeding to the nuts, but my so called “squirrel-proof” bird feeder without the cage just doesn’t work.

Member

I’ll take one of your squirrels. They are so graceful, and a real pleasure to watch.