How to Keep Squirrels Off of Bird Feeders

By Chris Williams on November 3, 2014.
baffles help keep squirrels from bird feeders but don't always work

An example of unsuccessful baffles

It’s almost impossible to have bird feeders without squirrel interference. If your feeder is on a pole, squirrels will climb it, no matter what you smear on it. If your feeder hangs in a tree, squirrels simply snicker as they slide down onto the feeder or hop from a branch.

We’ve all tried at least one of the many commercial bird feeders that claim to be “squirrel-proof.” If there exists such a thing, we would know about it. Some feeders come with counter-balanced baffles that close the feeder’s ports when anything heavier than a bird is aboard. Others have a wire cage around the feeder with small openings that allow only birds to reach the seed. And so on, and so on.

Keeping Squirrels Off of Bird Feeders: It’s All About Location!

Experts with years of practice at thwarting squirrels will tell you that the most important consideration is location of the feeder. Your feeder has to be far away from the nearest tree or building or anyplace where a squirrel can hang, jump, or stretch and manage to reach the feeder. The feeder has to be at least 6 feet off of the ground and at least 8 feet horizontally from the nearest launching point (a picnic table, for example). Flying squirrels are a different story. They can glide from a tree to reach a feeder 60 feet away. If flying squirrels are your problem, you may have to give up bird feeding or learn to love the little guys (see Will Flying Squirrels Feed at Bird Feeders?)

Try a Baffle to Thwart Feeder Raiders

Baffles probably represent your best chance at keeping squirrels off of bird feeders. Baffles are plastic or metal half-spheres, cones, cylinders, or slanted platforms and are attached to the pole below the feeder, or to the wire above a hanging feeder. Squirrels are usually unable to get around the baffle to get to the feeder. Baffles are still not the perfect answer; some squirrels can manage to wriggle around them. Other squirrels have figured out how to use the baffle to their advantage by launching themselves at it which dumps a bunch of seed that they then eat off of the ground.

In his book, Outwitting Squirrels, Bill Adler Jr. suggests hanging the bird feeder on a horizontal wire attached on each end to a tree or post. Wire alone is not enough however; squirrels can tiptoe across a wire to reach a feeder. On either side of the feeder, string a few large LP records (check a thrift shop), or large empty one liter soda bottles with holes in the bottom, or aluminum pie plates, all designed to halt the squirrels’ forward progress. Another frustrated bird lover threaded plastic tubing, cut into half-inch lengths onto his horizontal wire. Since each piece of tubing rotates freely on the wire, it’s extremely difficult for squirrels to maintain their footing (and should provide a good show). This worked well, he said, until an ice storm cemented all the tubing together!

If the squirrels around your house are just too much to deal with, give Colonial a call. We have a team of trained and licensed nuisance wildlife experts that practice humane squirrel management.

[Source: Squirrels – The Animal Answer Guide. Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie Ferrell]

Photo credit: fishhawk / Foter / CC BY

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