It can feel frustrating when you put food out for the little birds, but the squirrels, crows, starlings and magpies get to it before the blue tits and robins, especially when you’re going to the effort of buying a good quality seed. I have researched and tested some brilliant solutions to give the little birds a chance and prevent the larger birds (and the neighbourhood squirrels) from ruling the roost. As much as we want to encourage all wildlife into our gardens, it can be frustrating when the majority of the food is being eaten by squirrels. They may look cute, but squirrels scare away birds and store any food they can’t eat, taking way more than they need. They’re clever and resilient and will chew through even wire to access the food they want.
The truth about squirrels
It can be frustrating when squirrels effortlessly empty the bird feeder of all the bird food, leaving little for the feathered friends we wanted to support. Their relentless determination and agile antics can leave us feeling like we're in a never-ending battle of wits. But, as much as they might test our patience, it's also hard not to admire their resourcefulness and adaptability. Their role as seed dispersers is crucial for maintaining biodiversity. When they bury nuts and seeds and then forget where they've hidden them, they inadvertently aid in forest regeneration. Additionally, their enthusiastic foraging for insects and grubs can help control pest populations in gardens.
Stop squirrels from eating all the bird food
You may have experimented with other squirrel-proof bird feeders, but the Brome Squirrel Buster stands as the world's best-seller for a good reason. As well as being heavy duty, chew-proof and virtually impossible for a squirrel to take down and dismantle, the Squirrel Buster features a weight activated mechanism which causes the feeding ports to close when a squirrel lands. The spring inside is triggered by the weight of the squirrel, meaning it also closes down the ports when a large bird like a pigeon, crow or magpie settles on the feeding perch. The rule of thumb for using a Squirrel Buster successfully is to ensure the feeder has clearance of around 18” above, below and on all sides around the feeder, otherwise the squirrel will rest his weight on a nearby fence or branch while he scoops out the bird food. The Starling-Proof Bird Feeder Guardian is also a great solution to squirrels.
5 Tips to stop squirrels from eating all the bird food
1. Invest in a squirrel proof bird feeder
I recommend the Squirrel Buster bird feeder, or the Starling Proof Bird Feeder Guardian. The Squirrel Buster bird feeder uses an adjustable weight mechanism. When a heavier animal, like a squirrel, lands on it, the feeder's ports close, denying access to the seeds. Lighter birds can land without triggering this, allowing access to the food. The Bird Feeder Guardian is a sturdy stainless steel cage that sits around your feeder, preventing squirrels from getting access.
2. Keep the feeders clean
Squirrels are often attracted by food knocked off the feeders by birds. Try to keep the area under your bird feeder clean, and maybe consider attaching a tray beneath the feeder to collect any fallen food.
3. Follow the rule of 5-7-9
Squirrels will be reluctant to jump more than 5 feet off the ground, 7 feet across from a fence or tree and won’t want to drop more than 9 feet onto the feeder from above. Measure out the site for your bird feeder to make sure it falls within the rule of 5-7-9 and prune away branches that give the squirrels easy access. If the feeder sits 16 inches or more from the feeding pole, squirrels can't access it. When the distance is shorter, the feeder closes as they need to apply weight on the mechanism, triggering its closure. I stock a 16" feeding pole bracket as part of my bird feeding station set. The bracket features a squirrel proof hook (meaning they can't remove the feeder altogether), which is ideal.
4. Give squirrels their own supply
A steady supply of whole peanuts in a dedicated squirrel feeder might be enough to lure squirrels from your bird feeders, especially if positioned in a different area of the garden.
5. Be consistent
Whatever you choose to do, maintain consistency over time, and don't implement too many new strategies at once. I can say with my hand on my heart that the Starling Proof Feeder Guardian is the most effective method I have found to deter squirrels (mainly because it also prevents jackdaws from eating all the food as well).
How do you stop the squirrels from eating all of your bird food? I would love to know - you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your top tips!