Feeding Birds by Keeping Squirrels Away

Outwit squirrels with these tips for keeping squirrels away from bird feeders to leave bird seed for the birds.

Squirrels! Squirrels! Squirrels! They are everywhere…on bird feeders, on wires, on the ground and in the birdbath.

Most are gray squirrels, but depending on where you live, some may be red squirrels or fox squirrels. All can be pests.

True, they are fascinating to watch, and obviously very intelligent as they outsmart the protective baffles and domes we place around bird feeders. But there is a limit to how much of this behavior we’re willing to tolerate.

After decades of studying and observing wildlife, I’ve come up with four methods that will stop most squirrels in their tracks.

Rule of 5-7-9: I have found that squirrels cannot jump more than 5 feet from the ground to reach a feeder on a post with a baffle. They cannot jump more than 7 feet from a tree or building to the side of a feeder. And they are reluctant to drop more than 9 feet onto a feeder from above.

So, if your feeder is 5 feet off the ground, 7 feet on each side from a launching place, and 9 feet below an overhang, 90% of squirrels will be unable to jump onto a baffled feeder. If you add 6 inches to those dimensions, you should prevent 100% of squirrels from reaching the feeder.

Soda Bottle Roller: Squirrels are regular circus performers when it comes to walking on high wires. Their amazing agility makes bird feeders hanging from wires easy pickings for any squirrel.

But, if you string plastic liter-size soda bottles onto the wire on both sides of the feeders, the squirrels will be rolled off the bottles as they approach the feeders. Make sure to keep the Rule of 5-7-9 in mind when placing the wire for the soda bottle setup.

Slinky On A Post: A “Slinky,” the children’s toy, makes a great post baffle. Thread the post through the Slinky and attach one end under the feeder and allow it to drape down the post. Shorten it if the Slinky touches the ground.

A squirrel that tries to climb the post will get a ride on the Slinky back to the ground every time. Again, remember to use the Rule of 5-7-9 when placing the feeder to prevent squirrels from bypassing the Slinky baffle.

Birds In A Cage: By enclosing bird feeders in wire mesh (hardware cloth) that is large enough to allow birds to enter the cage, but small enough to exclude squirrels, you have squirrel-proofed the feeder. This works especially well for feeders that only serve small birds, like tube feeders, and it keeps out large bully birds as well.

Use these four methods, alone or together, and you will have outsmarted the squirrels in your backyard. Then you can go back to watching the birds on the feeders, while the squirrels watch from the trees.

George Harrison
George Harrison is an expert about feeding and attracting birds and avian behavior.