So what can bird feeders do in the face of these relentless seed-hunting machines?
A Squirrely Problem to Solve
For ages, birders have gone to great lengths to keep their bird food strictly for their feathered friends. Unfortunately, squirrels have proven themselves worthy adversaries. They are so resilient and innovative that a YouTuber even created an Olympic level obstacle course for his backyard squirrels to challenge their skills. While the results were mixed, every attempt is more hilarious than the last.
But having hungry birds in your backyard is no laughing matter. While no feeder is ever 100% squirrel-proof, here are the best ways to deter your squirrels and save some of those seeds.
In birding circles, it’s common to hear about the 5-7-9 rule, which is something you’ll definitely want to know! It refers to how you should place your feeder. The ideal spot should be 5 feet off the ground, 7 feet away from any structures (especially trees), and nothing less than 9 feet hanging above it.
An effective solution is using a thin metallic wire to suspend your feeder between two trees. Just remember to keep it at least 7 feet away from the tree trunks!
2. Added Deterrents
There are plenty of ways to deter your squirrels that are both ethical and hilarious. One such method is the use of spinners. These aptly named inventions surround the base of your feeder to humanely prevent squirrels from getting at your bird food.
Once a squirrel grips the spinner, their superior weight will build momentum and fling them around until they let go and drop to the ground. While they’ll be perfectly fine being flung, after a few rotations on a spinner, they might not be quite so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
3. Type of food
While squirrels can hardly be considered picky eaters, there are still some foods that aren’t their favorites. They don’t typically like safflower, nyjer, and white millet. This will substantially increase the likelihood that your birds will get an opportunity to enjoy these choice offerings instead.
4. Decoy Food
Squirrels visit your feeder because they are hungry. However, if you are able to feed them from some other source, they are less likely to visit your bird feeder. Place feeder stations specially designed for squirrels far from your bird feeder, and your furry friends will be too stuffed to steal from your birds.
With over 250 species of squirrels around the world, there’s no single trick to deter them all. The key is to monitor your feeder as you try some or all of the above solutions and check the effectiveness of your efforts. If your squirrels are more acrobatically-inclined, try to experiment with different mixtures that contain their least favorite foods. If you’ve got a bunch of eclectic eaters, test their innovation with more deterrents.
Every squirrel is different. To effectively deter your squirrels will require your flexibility and willingness to test different solutions. But your birds will definitely thank you for your vigilance!
Monitor Your Feeder’s Visitors
What if you’ve tried a combination of these different tricks, but don’t know if it’s working? Your bird food level is going down, but who is really eating your tasty treats?
The best way to keep a vigilant eye on your feeder is with a smart bird feeder. Smart bird feeders feature an AI-powered camera that documents every visitor and sends you a photo of the encounter. You can see for yourself if the number of squirrel visitors has dropped or even disappeared as your photo collection becomes filled with your feathered friends.
Like normal bird feeders, smart feeders can be placed in a variety of places. You can fulfill the 5-7-9 rule by pairing a smart feeder with a pole mount to make a secure, and isolated observation station for your birds. The best part? Even if an occasional squirrel does manage to breach your defenses, you’ll still be able to enjoy a silly close-up of the culprit to put up on your ‘most wanted’ board.
View more of our best squirrel moments here!