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The Bird Brain How to discourage Squirrels

By Nik and Theresa Hiremath

W

hen you feed the birds, many other wildlife species benefit as well. A primary beneficiary of backyard bird feeding is the squirrel. Depending on your point of view, squirrels may be either the cutest or the peskiest creatures that are part of your backyard nature habitat. Did you know that squirrels eat more than their body weight in food each week? They can smell food from great distances which makes it easy for them to detect bird food. Squirrels can jump from four to six feet vertically and eight to 10 feet between objects. They can cling to objects with the toes on their back feet—this lets them hang upside down and use their front paws to stuff their faces. These cute furry critters not only eat a lot of birdseed, but they also can potentially damage or

destroy your feeder. Divert squirrels from your bird feeders by giving them their own feeder. Fill it with food such as peanuts and corn, and that should keep them happy. If you want to feed the squirrels, be sure to place the food in a platform tray or nut box away from windowsills and doorways—you don’t want to invite these creatures to chew through your screens or doors. Also, keep their food away from your bird feeding stations. To discourage squirrels from eating your birdseed, there are several options:

White-breasted Nuthatches—savor safflower. Blackbirds, grackles and squirrels typically do not. Start by offering safflower gradually, mixing it with the seed or seed blends you currently provide. Over time increase the amount of safflower until you are offering straight safflower. The seed looks and tastes different from other bird seed, so it may take your birds some time to adjust. If you are feeding suet, offer hot-pepper suet. Squirrels do not like the hot flavor, but birds do not mind it.

Offer Safflower Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds— including jays, cardinals, chickadees, House Finches, doves, Redbellied Woodpeckers, titmice and

Squirrel-proof Feeders If you want to keep squirrels from devouring your best bird food, try a “squirrel-proof” feeder. Squirrel-proof feeders are designed to keep squirrels from reaching seed.

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Squirrel-resistant Setups If you want to keep squirrels from bothering your existing bird feeder setup, place a baffle on your feeder pole above or below the feeder. Stove pipe-type baffles can deter squirrels when the baffle is placed underneath the feeder, and the feeder is above 5 feet high and 8 feet to 10 feet away from other objects. Dome baffles must

be large enough to cover the feeder and keep squirrels from accessing the feeder when it is hung on a pole or in a tree. The feeder should be hung 8 to 10 feet away from other objects. Another alternative is to try a wire mesh cage around your existing feeders. Whether you like them or not, squirrels are likely a part of your backyard habitat. We can’t choose what parts of nature we want, but we can find ways to try and care for all of our wild friends. Nature already does a wonderful job of accommodating all of its creatures and so can we.

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