How do I keep the squirrels in my yard away from my feeders and bird seed?

April 1, 2009
Squirrels have a way of breaching even the most "squirrel-proof" bird feeders. Photo by Christine Cassidy via Birdshare. Squirrels have a way of breaching even the most "squirrel-proof" bird feeders. Photo by Christine Cassidy via Birdshare.
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We’d like to tell you that there’s a foolproof way to defeat squirrels, but the truth is that it’s very hard to make a feeder completely safe from these voracious little critters. Plenty of strategies have been tried—and many of them do offer some relief in some situations. A while ago we asked our Facebook visitors to tell us what works for them and we boiled down the result into our Top Nine Squirrel Intervention Suggestions: obstruction, elevation, isolation, lubrication, combination, altercation, innovation, separation, and capitulation.

In general, the three best approaches include

  • putting your feeder in a place squirrels can’t get to (not always possible in all yards)
  • using a feeder designed to keep squirrels away from the seed
  • providing food specifically for the squirrels, such as cracked corn, to keep them away from your feeders

Other approaches include making it hard for squirrels to climb up to your feeder, putting additives such as capsaicin (hot pepper) that birds can’t taste into your bird seed mix, and—what may turn out to the best suggestion—trying to enjoy the sight of squirrels in your yard!

For more details and caveats on each of these suggestions, check out the Attract Birds section of All About Birds. And for a glimpse at just how resourceful squirrels can be—even as they interfere with one of our research projects—read this former student’s account of her battle with squirrels.

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