Signup to receive email updates

or follow our RSS feed

follow our RSS feed

Blog Banner

Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois
Bird Winter

Not Just Birds Go After Bird Seed

Posted by Ron Wolford -

When you try to provide food for the birds, the rest of nature considers itself invited to the feast that you have provided. Here are some suggestions for reducing problems from squirrels, mice and other creatures that can be a problem to people feeding birds.

Probably the biggest problem that you are likely to face when trying to feed the birds is squirrels trying to take the birdseed. Although squirrels are also part of nature, and many people feel that their feeding at the bird feeder is natural and acceptable, other people get very upset when squirrels arrive at the feeder.

Squirrels are capable of tearing apart many feeders and carrying all of the seed away to be stored for later use, just as they do with acorns and other seeds in the fall.

Squirrels can be kept out of the feeder by mounting it on a slender metal pole that they are unable to climb. The feeder should be at least 6 or 7 feet off of the ground so that the squirrels will not be able to jump onto the feeder from the ground. Locate the bird feeder so that it is at least 20 feet from the nearest tree branch, house roof or other object that the squirrels may use to jump down onto the feeder.

If this isn't feasible, then using sheet metal or smooth plastic around a wooden post will usually keep off the squirrels. Smooth plastic or metal baffles beneath or above the bird feeder will probably keep away most of the squirrels.

Realize, however, that sooner or later a squirrel that is agile enough or ingenious enough to get to the seed anyway may arrive at your feeder. With this in mind, many people decide that if you can't beat them, join them. They end up resigning themselves to the fact that squirrels need to eat as well. Going with this notion, consider feeding corn to the squirrels so that they are less likely to attack the bird feeder. This bribery not only helps protect the feeder, but also helps another of nature's creatures make it through the winter.

Ear corn or corn-on-the-cob usually occupies the squirrels longer than loose corn or seed. These ears can be mounted on nails on boards or fence posts for support. Locate your feeder at least 15 feet from shrubbery or other cover so that ground feeding birds can see a prowling house cat or other predator and have time to escape.

Mice and rats may feed on the spilled seed around the feeder. Locating the feeder over a smooth surface such as a patio allows you to sweep up the seed each evening to reduce this problem. Because many birds prefer to feed on the ground, spilled seed should not be removed during the day.

Source: David Robson, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, Springfield Center, (217)782-6515

Please share this article with your friends!
Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter Pin on Pinterest


Email will not display publicly, it is used only for validating comment