About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Can Squirrels and Birds Eat Together?

Hi! I love your blog :) I have a question about squirrels and birds. I have one big bird feeder and several smaller ones in my backyard. They are placed apart (2 are on the same tree). It is a smallish yard. However all I get are squirrels! I counted 7 yesterday. I really don't mind feeding them and the bunnies that come at night, especially when it gets down to -30 here (I'm in north Iowa now but I'm a native Detroiter). I used to get flickers, downys, cardinals, sparrows and crows. Now they all skip over my yard because the squirrels are always there. I can't put up any new poles to hold feeders with the ground frozen. Do you have any ideas how to get the birds back with the squirrels there? Thanks so much! Amanda, olivetto.wordpress.com, olivetto.etsy.com

Hello, I like the squirrels too. They are awake way before the birds on these bitter cold mornings. I was just saying today that the early squirrel gets the nut.

I have one fly-thru feeder designated for the squirrels or any bird that can squeeze in a turn. I fill that with sunflower chips and peanut pieces. And believe me, when a Blue Jay, Red-bellied Woodpecker, or a Carolina Wren want a nut, the squirrels better move or they'll get pecked.

Then I have several Nyjer thistle feeders. Squirrels will avoid these feeders. The Nyjer seed is a lot of shell filled with a tiny bit of oil that usually only the finches adore.

The best suet for the birds should have a high percentage of crude fat (~40%) and little or no seed. My squirrels don’t bother my suet feeders, but if they did, I would recommend using our Hot Pepper suet. Mammals don’t like hot pepper but the birds do.

My most popular bird feeder is the Squirrel Buster Plus. That’s our number one selling feeder that accommodates the largest variety of backyard birds and will close when a squirrel attempts to feed.

I also have a safflower feeder. Feeding safflower seed has become the solution to attracting specific birds to your feeder and repelling others. The shape of the shell and the bitter taste makes this seed unattractive to blackbirds and mammals like squirrels. However, popular backyard birds including cardinals, chickadees, House Finches, Mourning Doves, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, and nuthatches, savor safflower.

Also baffles will make it harder for the squirrels to reach the seed. Squirrels can jump 4-5 feet high and across 5-10 feet. There are several types of baffles that you can use too. You can put a baffle around a pole to stop them from reaching your feeder. Or you can buy a baffle that goes over your feeder that protects it from squirrels dropping down from the trees.

Next, make your yard bird friendly. I have lots of evergreens for the cardinals and chickadees to hang around, trees that produce fruit at different times of the year and flowers that produce seed heads. We also have a pond and a variety of bird houses. A heated birdbath and a brush pile would also help the birds.

Finally, keep your feeders clean and full of fresh seed. Before you fill the feeder, put some seed on a piece of paper and crush it. You should see oil stains on the paper. If your seed is dried out your feeders will be skipped.

And everyone should clean their feeders about once a month, especially when migrating birds begin to pass through. When birds are stressed they are susceptible to diseases and so it’s best to serve them on a clean plate.

Thanks for writing. I hope one of these suggestions helps.
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Wild Birds Unlimited
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East Lansing, MI 48823

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Great! Thank you so much :)
I'll give those a try. Amanda

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