The voracious appetites of squirrels is a problem for many backyard birders, and squirrels can cause a lot of damage to feeders when they try to get at the succulent seed. By understanding how squirrels can damage feeders, backyard birders can take appropriate steps to limit that damage.
Squirrel Feeder Damage
Squirrels have sharp teeth and claws, agile bodies and clever minds all with one goal – eating. To that end, they will work ceaselessly to get at the store of seed in a bird feeder, and can cause a lot of expensive damage to feeders as they work to get a meal. Squirrels can…
- Rip open feeding ports so a feeder can't hold seed any longer.
- Open cracks and holes in a feeder that will lead to spoiled seed and mildew.
- Create splinters and shards on a feeder that can injure birds or humans.
- Break perches so small birds are unable to feed at the proper feeding ports.
- Introduce lice, ticks and other parasites near the feeder, potentially infecting birds, pets and humans.
- Consume seed quickly, keeping birds from feeding and making it much more expensive to refill feeders.
Nothing can be more disheartening to a backyard birder than to find a new feeder destroyed by squirrel damage, but recognizing that damage is the first step toward prevention.
Minimizing Squirrel Damage
There are many ways to attempt to squirrel-proof a bird feeder and minimize the damage squirrels can do to it. The most popular options include:
- Obstructing the feeder from squirrels' access with baffles, cages or other deterrents.
- Filling the feeder with foods squirrels don't care for, such as Nyjer or seed treated with hot pepper.
- Providing easy access distraction feeders filled with corn or nuts to keep squirrels happily fed.
- Trimming nearby trees and limbs to prevent squirrels from jumping onto the feeders.
- Choosing specialized feeders with built-in squirrel deterrents, such as weight-sensitive perches.
- Opting for sturdier feeders made from thicker wood or metal that will be more resistant to squirrel damage.
Getting Along With Squirrels
It's important to remember that squirrels are just as much a part of backyard wildlife as birds are. While many birders take steps to minimize feeder trouble from squirrels, it is not always possible to keep squirrels completely away. Birders who strive to find a balance with their backyard squirrels rather than completely excluding them from feeders may be happier with their bird feeding, and in time the squirrels are likely to adjust to that balance and enjoy squirrel-friendly feeders while leaving other bird feeders unmolested.
Photo – Squirrel-Damaged Feeder © Liz Masoner, About.com Guide to Photography