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    Open Mic: How to Navigate the Ongoing Battle with Squirrels this Winter

    At the Mic: Ruth Bloedorn

    Ruth, of Chilton, Wisconsin, is co-founder of Birds Choice, a bird feeder design and manufacturing company she founded with her husband Dan in 1995. Birds Choice seeks to build only the best products for attracting birds and enhancing backyards for outdoor enthusiasts everywhere. For more information on Birds Choice, check out www.birdschoice.com.

     –=====–

    If you enjoy attracting and feeding beautiful birds in your backyard this time of year, you are probably dealing with the frustrating job of keeping relentless squirrels off your feeders. The winter season can be especially challenging for both birds and birders for two primary reasons: 1) Snow under the feeders makes the distance from the ground to the feeder shorter, making it easy for squirrels to access their next meal, and 2) the harsh winter elements make natural food sources more difficult to find, driving squirrels to bird feeders out of desperation.

    So how do you ensure your backyard birds will have enough food to last during the cold winter months? Consider these suggestions.

    Monitor feeding activities.

    When placing bird feeders in your yard this winter, you should put them in an area where you can easily view them from inside your home. This will help you determine whether or not squirrels are posing a threat to your feeders. If you see them lurking around the feeders, chances are they may be taking away from the bird food. That’s when you know it’s time to act.

    Put up your best defense.

    NP431wGrosbeaksIf you prefer to hang your feeder from a tree, keep it away from the trunk and hang it from the smallest branch possible. Place a squirrel baffle above the feeder to prevent access at the top. While some squirrels  may be able to get around the baffle, it will make it more difficult for them.

    If you prefer to have your feeders perched on a pole or post, consider adding a squirrel baffle or seeking out a feeder with a built-in baffle, which will cut off their access. Some birders even get creative by greasing  feeder poles or putting items such as a Slinky on the pole to deter squirrels.

    Another option to consider is a specially designed squirrel-proof feeder. These feeders are designed to  close the feeding ports when too much weight has landed on them. Other squirrel-proof feeders use different means to discourage the squirrel, such as perches that fall or motors that knock the squirrel off entirely. Neither is intended to hurt the squirrels, but it’s enough to give them a good scare.

    If squirrels in your yard persist, consider changing your seed. Bring out the safflower or NutraSaff.   quirrels do not like safflower products, but cardinals, chickadees, finches and other birds will gladly eat it. Another idea is to consider changing from traditional to hot pepper suet. This tasty treat for birds does not appeal to squirrels.

    If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

    If you still have trouble driving squirrels away from your feeders, set up a separate feeding station for them in a different area of your yard by using foods that they like better than bird seed. Birds Choice produces squirrel munch boxes and a squirrel arrow that holds a corncob, just to name a few. These products will appease the squirrels, all the while keeping them right where you want them – out of your bird feeders!

    Believe it or not, people watch and feed squirrels almost as much as they do birds. While they can be a challenge, they’re also very entertaining. So sit back and enjoy the show!

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    Nate Swick

    Nate Swick

    Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog. A long-time member of the bird blogosphere, Nate has been writing about birds and birding at The Drinking Bird since 2007, but can also be found writing regularly at 10,000 Birds. In the non-digital world, he's an environmental educator and interpretive naturalist. Nate lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children, who are not yet aware that they are being groomed to be birders.
    Nate Swick

    Latest posts by Nate Swick (see all)

    • http://birdchaser.blogspot.com Rob

      I recently bought a squirrel resistant tube feeder with holes that are easy for birds to get seeds out of, but are recessed and difficult for squirrels to get their mouths into. I also bought an Airsoft pistol and biodegradable BBs. Now instead of being frustrated when I see the squirrels, I grab the gun and dash after them shooting. I rarely hit them, and when I do it just bounces off them. It makes them run and gives me a little fun instead of frustration!

    • http://profile.typepad.com/rickhollis Rick Hollis

      Best thing we did was put metal trash cans, upside down, below our feeders. I think ours are 21 gal and the pole goes through the center of the can. We have had very few squirrels or raccoons get to our feeders since then. Both still make a mess under the feeders, but the climb inside the can and almost never make it to the feed.

      One still needs to keep the top of the can 4′ or more above the ground and have it so they cannot jump from a tree to the feeder.

    • Bonnie

      Years ago I relocated our birdfeeding station and bought a baffle for the central pole. It’s worked very well in deterring the squirrels. In addition I do provide some food on the ground for the squirrels.

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