I’ve had an ongoing issue with squirrels ravaging my bird feeders. I bought a great Squirrel Stopper pole, but because I wanted to see the birds from my kitchen window, and despite clear instructions not too, I placed it too close to a nearby tree and arborvitaes. So, those very acrobatic squirrels have had fun feasting at my feeders!
In a post earlier this winter, I wrote about finally investing in some well reviewed squirrel proof feeders to try and attract more birds than squirrels to my yard (Happy New Year’s To My Backyard Birds!). So did they work?
Happy New Year! I hope this day finds you all well and looking forward to this new year. I’ve been away a bit from blogging, but one of my goals for this year is to keep up much better. So much has happened this summer and fall with great gardening and travel, so I’ll spend the winter catching up!
On to the birds—
Like most people, I have a heck of a time finding balance between feeding the birds and feeding the pesky squirrels. I really love my squirrel-proof pole, but it’s only as good as your placement.
In my case, for me to have it in a perfect viewing spot from the kitchen window, it is just too close to the tree. Since squirrels are quite the acrobats, the pole really needs to be at least 10 feet from any object than can jump from. BTW, I have never seen a squirrel successfully climb up the pole! Since I’m not willing to move it, I either need to put up with feeding the squirrels or try some other feeders or shields.
I tried the clear dome feeder covers and decided those were really only good to keep the finch socks dry. I tried tying shiny ribbons around the tree to distract the squirrels and that only made it look like trash had become trapped on the tree somehow. I also tried the Squirrelaway Baffle, which also got great reviews. But, alas, my squirrels finally outwitted it 🙁 It did work pretty well with the suet feeder tucked up there, but regular feeders it was able to s-t-r-e-t-c-h and reach around to grab it.
My last attempt was to try some of the squirrel proof feeders. Since it was recently Christmas, I added a couple to my Christmas wish list. I also had a couple around that I dusted off.
Here’s what I’m trying:
Peanut Feeder– I’ve had this one a couple of years and the nuthatches and downy’s just love it. I’m not sure the brand, but I got it at a Tractor Supply Store. No squirrels can get into it. But, the other day I must not have screwed on the top as tight as I should have since it was missing one morning. I found it quite a ways away from the pole, so someone had quite a feast!
My only concern is the plastic tube. Hope my squirrels aren’t chewers.
The top seems really good and tight to keep them out.
My new suet feeder– I’ve really tried to used shields with my suet feeders and they worked for a while. Then this happened. Maybe I just didn’t figure out how to get the feeder hidden in their well enough, or I just have super smart squirrels. Either way a new approach was needed.
Black Oil Sunflower Feeder– And lastly, my new favorite! A Brome 1057 Squirrel Buster Standard Wild Bird Feeder. This seems to be everyone’s favorite brand, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it seems to be made. Comes with really good instructions in case you want to adjust the closure weight.
I chose this one because it has perches that Cardinals seems to like. They were the trickiest to find a squirrel proof feeder for since they like to perch instead of cling. Worst case scenario, they seem to be happy with the spills.
So here we have it. All ready for the birds and hopefully will have outsmarted the squirrels.
I’ll keep you posted! How do you outsmart the squirrels?
P.S. To help keep the sparrows and house finches away from my more expensive seeds, I usually place a couple of other feeders farther away in the yard filled with a cheaper wild bird seed mixtures. That seems to keep them happy!
I don’t really feed the birds over the summer because there’s plenty of natural food around for them. But as the plants die back, seeds become scarcer and the cold sets in, I get the feeders out. I have to admit, I’m pretty sloppy when I put things away, so they really needed cleaning and checking out for any problems.
First up was the Squirrel Stopper Feeder Pole. I still love this pole set-up for keeping off the squirrels and hanging a good assortment of feeders. I just wish I hadn’t put it up so close to a tree that the squirrels can jump from (they warned me in the instructions!). But, I decided to sacrifice for the ability to watch the birds so easily. I will say that to the pole designers credit, NO squirrel has climbed up the pole.
But, back to cleaning. I had been noticing a little rust and accumulated bird dirt on the poles, so after wiping it down, my husband Steve sanded the rust spots and sprayed a little Rustoleum on it.
I wiped down the wire feeders and scrubbed out the tube feeders with a long handled brush using a dilute bleach solution (1 part bleach:9 parts water and rinse thoroughly). While checking the feeders, I did notice some issues with a couple. The squirrels had chewed a hole in the peanut feeder. Right through the wire mesh.
The squirrels have also chewed away at the No/No Cardinal Feeder, but other than making it a little oddly shaped, haven’t made any holes. The cardinals don’t seem to mind.
The seed bins were full and ready, too. Although, I did notice that I am out of shelled peanuts so I need to make another trip to the feed store.
Here’s some of my favorite feeder “scoops” and funnels. This small investment has made the process of filling the feeders a lot easier and less messy.
All finished and ready for winter! If you know anything about our current winter here in Chicago, you know that this “finished” picture was taken a few weeks ago during the one snowfall we’ve had so far.
Then in addition to the usual birds that arrived almost immediately–chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, cardinals, goldfinches, downy woodpeckers–I had an extra special visitor at my Snowman Feeder. A Northern Flicker!
What’s your favorite feeder? Any interesting birds in your yard this winter?
My mom, Peggy, has had an ongoing issue with blue jays in her yard. As I wrote before in Bullies at the Bird Feeder, they can be a real nuisance at her feeders. They eat an obnoxious amount of bird seed and really act as bullies when other birds try to eat.
Now the latest problem is that they are arriving first thing on the morning in groups of up to 35 and staying to dine for 3-4. You can only imagine how fast they can clean out the feeders and certainly scare off any other bird who may want to eat breakfast.
So what to do? I guess Mom could have given up and just stopped feeding the birds altogether, but that would make for a very unhappy backyard. Instead, she worked to makes the feeders blue jay unfriendly.
First, some of the feeders like the platforms and cardinal feeders just had to come down. Luckily the cardinals and mourning doves were able to find enough seed on the ground to keep them happy. On occasion they’ll even find nice handfuls of sunflower seeds set out on the ground for them. For cardinals, this works best in the early morning or late afternoon.
Then, some of the others were put in cages that would allow the smaller birds access, but keep out the bigger birds like blue jays out.
The downy and hairy woodpeckers can still get in and enjoy the suet.
The pileated woodpeckers prefer to visit another suet feeder that the blue jays haven’t seemed to find!
The weighted squirrel proof bird feeder can be set to keep off larger birds like the blue jays. It’s settings are sensitive enough that the cardinals and smaller birds can still feed on here.
The most popular feeders in Peggy’s yard are actually the colorful and fun little sunflower seed ball feeders. The clinging birds are constantly on them and the blue jays haven’t been able to figure these out.
The oddity Mom’s encountered with these feeders is the pine siskins’ habit of just pulling out seeds and dropping them. Maybe they’re looking for just the right one? Still no waste though, since the ground feeding juncoes are just fine hanging out under the feeders and eating the treats.
Lastly, this ground feeder is filled with cracked corn enjoyed by an assortment of birds and bunnies. I asked Mom why she’d be feeding the bunnies. She said it was better they eat the cracked corn than eat her plants! Can’t argue with that!
Have you had to adjust your feeders for some nuisance birds?
Every year, my husband asks me what I want for my birthday. I’m usually not very helpful, but this year I knew just what I wanted!
Last fall, I decided a little late I was going to get back in the bird feeding business. It had been a while, as evidenced by one of my old feeders currently working only as home to a wasp’s nest. Soon after I got the poles and feeders sort of set out, the ground froze and my temporary locations became permanent.
Needless to say, the birds, and the squirrels, were happy with my feeders and locations. I am glad that I kept at it. With the winter as harsh as it was, the birds needed all the help they could get. Plus it added some fun to the never-ending winter.
This year, my plan was to be a lot more prepared. I needed to plan a little better where I was going to put the feeders, and get some better squirrel proof feeders. I’m not nearly as handy around power tools as my mom is, so I wasn’t going to build anything myself. Shopping around, the better pole systems were a bit pricey, which is where my birthday comes in. For my birthday I got a fabulous pole system and a couple of new feeders.
It seemed really sturdy and almost universally squirrel-proof according to the reviewers. Next decision was where to put it. I wanted it to be where I could see the visitors easily from the house, but not attractive to jumping squirrels. While this feeder seems quite effective in stopping climbing squirrels, it won’t protect from the jumpers. While my mom was here visiting, we scoped out a spot that hopefully is far enough away from the river birch and arborvitae, and a perfect view from the kitchen window. It’s going to be right behind the big hosta, about 10 ft from the tree trunk and 6 ft from the arborvitae. I’m hoping they can’t get a good jump off the floppy arborvitae branches.
Setting up the feeder—
I was really impressed with the thickness and sturdiness of the poles.
Time to start putting it in the ground. You use one of the upper cross beams as the leverage to twist in the auger. It was a little tough to insert the pole throughout the hole, but using water as the lubricant, I got it in finally. Then it took two of us to twist it into the wonderful midwest ground. Somehow we picked the only spot free of tree roots and got it in the first time!
You do need to get it in the ground all the way to the line, otherwise it’s too tall and it’s tough to reach the feeder hooks. Hint: Do it right the first time. No way was I going to disassemble it to finish twisting it into the ground. We ended up using one of my metal shepherd’s crooks to finish twisting. Nothing else was strong enough to take the pressure.
The rest of the pieces slipped together easily.
I got a couple of new feeders to go with the pole set. The red one is a No-No Cardinal Feeder. I never had a real cardinal feeder out last winter, and instead went out every day and tossed some sunflower seeds on the snowman statue’s head until it fell over and cracked from the cold. Kind of a wasteful way to put it out, but it worked in a pinch and the squirrels and juncos didn’t complain. I also got a new suet feeder, mostly because it looked nice.
On my way tomorrow to pick up new seed for the season. Are you ready for the birds this winter?
Many of us are used to having unwelcome visitors to our feeders and gardens. Squirrels, rabbits, even deer are common visitors to our yards. Whole businesses are out there dedicated to creating garden pest deterrents and squirrel-proof bird feeders. But, nothing is a match for what came to visit Peggy’s feeders.
Here’s a before…
Then, one morning a couple of weeks ago, this is what she woke up to…
Never in the more than 10 years in her house had she ever seen anything like this. The only thing that can do this kind of damage is a black bear. And a very large, strong bear it must have been given the size and sturdiness of the feeder stand. The cross beam had been ripped right off the bolts holding it on.
Feeders were ripped apart.
This homemade suet feeder was impressively ripped open, bending the old steel hinge and ripping off the wire cage. This was actually the bear’s favorite. He carried it off into the field behind her house where Nikki, Peggy’s dog, was able to track it down.
Peggy put out a animal-cam to try and get a photo of the bear if it decided to come back. Mostly she just got shots of herself working in the yard and mowing the grass. It took her while, and with the help of some friends she was able to get everything fixed and back together.
I’d like to show a “ta da look how great it looks’ photo, but wouldn’t you know, the bear chose THAT NIGHT to come back again. Not just to her feeder, but to a few others on the block as well. Unfortunately, all she got on the animal-cam was a big black blur.
This time, the bear wasn’t able to rip down the arm, but did do some pretty bad damage to her more expensive feeders. Again, with the help of friends, she was able to repair them and now takes them in every night. It’s a nuisance, but having a bear visit your yard is a bigger nuisance. Once it gets cold and the bears head into hibernation, she can start leaving them out again. Nikki will be happy too. She hasn’t been too thrilled about going out at night.
By the title, you’d think I was talking about those pesky squirrels again. But not this time. This time it’s an even more obnoxious bully, the Blue Jay.
Despite how handsome they look, looks can be deceiving. They are the original “Angry Birds”. My mom Peggy has a terrible time protecting her feeders, as well as the smaller birds visiting her yard, from the very unfriendly Blue Jays. The Blue Jays aggressively scare away the other birds, sometimes even killing them, then gluttonously eat up all the seed they can. It’s very frustrating to say the least.
Would you mess with this guy????
They don’t just eat what they need, but hoard it in their beak and expandable throat and esophagus. It’s said they can hold five to six Pin Oak acorns in their esophagus and beak, so you can imagine how many sunflower seeds it could hold! Once they’ve gorged themselves, they take their cache away and store it for later. Usually, they bury it in the ground like a squirrel or a dog might. Then they return for more.
Blue jays are also highly intelligent. They are remarkable in their ability to mimic other birds like raptors, presumably to further scare off any competition. They are also uncanny in their ability to figure out bird feeders. Peggy has even seen them hanging upside down from her suet feeder pretending to be a Downy Woodpecker.
So what to do? There are ways to hinder their ability to get to the feeders. The suet feeder above is often suggested as one way, but in her yard they’ve figured it out. Another option for protecting the suet from being devoured is to use a metal cage. The small woodpeckers can slip right in, but leave the Blue Jays looking longingly at it.
They’ve also figured out how to get out peanuts from this tube feeder that is usually visited by White and Red Nuthatches, Titmice and Chickadees. Into another cage it goes. The Blue Jays can get a few peanuts now and then, but it’s a lot of work
You can also sometimes adjust the type of seeds you put out. Blue Jays are much fonder of sunflower seeds than safflower seeds, and really don’t like nyjer (thistle) seeds.
Feeders like this Heritage Farms feeder also work to keep the Blue Jays off. The feeder perch can be weight adjusted to keep out the heavier birds. The seed tray gets shut tight when a too-heavy bird lands on it. Peggy has it set to allow Cardinals and Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks to land and eat, but if a little bird lands on the perch with them, it’ll close. That’s a small sacrifice to make to keep the Blue Jays off.
Do you have any bullies in your yard? The other day in my yard, one of the Cardinals was chasing off sparrows trying to eat seed off the ground. Oddly though, he seemed fine with the Juncos also eating the seeds. I guess even he knows which birds are a nuisance.
Anytime you put out a bird feeder, you are also bound to be inviting squirrels to your yard. So, I now have a group, scurry, dray, or whatever a bunch of squirrels might be called, who visit on a regular basis. I’m beginning to be able to pick each out based on their coloring and eating habits. One in particular is quite the gymnast. I’m not sure he’s getting any net positive calories, but he sure seems to be having fun doing this.
I really can’t even be upset he’s eating the sunflower seeds because as someone else in my family said, “It’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen”. This guy seems to be the only one who has figured this method of eating from this feeder. Another one clings a little better, but doesn’t last very long on the feeder. Either way, they don’t get much to eat one seed at a time. The others just scavenge the seeds on the ground or on the snowman statue’s hat. Not too much of a bother…yet. Plus, it gives Daisy something fun to do outside.
Here’s a movie of him getting a workout:
As a bonus, if you watch the background, you’ll see some Juncos and a Downy Woodpecker coming to visit.
The last couple of weeks we have already had what feels like, and may turn out to actually be, a whole winter’s worth of weather here in Chicago. The problem is, it’s only early January. I grew up in the snow belt of Buffalo, so I should be used to this. But, over the last 20 years, I’ve become a bit more used to the weather here. And the weather we’ve had lately is highly unusual both in low temperatures and snowfall. In some cases even record breaking and we I know we aren’t alone!
Storms all seem to be needing a name these days. The Weather Channel has officially named this storm “Ion”. But, really, I find the whole concept of officially naming snowstorms like hurricanes odd. The US NWS Chicago is using #chiberia to tag photos and comments. That’s actually fun since you can easily follow storm reporting from everyone on Facebook and Twitter. Then there’s #windchillmageddon. That’s my husband Steve’s contribution. Do you have a name to add? Whatever the case, this has been quite a couple of weather weeks, and I’m sure this will be a stretch of weather we’ll all remember.
I finally got all my feeders and seed out there just in time. I wish I had already picked up the heated birdbath my mom is passing on to me since she got a new one. I think the birds could be using some spa time. She says hers is busy all the time.
The feeders are all full.
The arborvitae and other shrubs are providing the birds with some winter protection from the snow and wind. They collect in the shrubs, then pop out to the feeders. Back and forth all day, until something invisible scares them off for a bit.
Daisy spends most of her time outdoors staring at the tree…
..and the squirrel quite boldly staring back.
Here’s some more storm images from my yard. Doesn’t look quite as inviting as in the summertime.
As of Sunday night (1/5/13), we’ve had about 8.5 inches in the last 24 hours, and about 21 inches since New Year’s Eve when this all started. The water content has averaged about 8%, making it nice and fluffy snow. While I am writing this Sunday night, the temperature has just dropped below zero with significantly dangerous wind chills. It’s not expected back above zero for about 34 hours. Brrrr. The kids are getting and extra day off so they are happy. Hope you are all warm and safe!