May 18, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 06 January 2011 11:13
Whole books have been written about how to keep squirrels off your feeders. A dozen bird-feeder manufacturers will tell you they have the perfect, squirrel-proof feeder. However, it may not be the feeder but how it’s presented, that makes all the difference in the success — and the price — of squirrel prevention.
“This morning especially, but also on previous mornings, the squirrels were relentless in jumping on and feeding at our bird feeder,” writes Ellen Stevens of Ridgefield. “It is supposed to be ‘squirrel-proof,’ but apparently falls very short in this area.
“My husband I used to have a spring-action feeder, which seemed to do the trick, but I am unable to find this feeder at Agway or other local stores. The stores did have an array of extravagantly priced — $100 and up — feeders with various wheels and other contraptions, but I fear these will not work.
“Do you know where I may be able to find a spring-action feeder?” she asks. “Any other suggestions?”
I actually own a spring-action feeder — one with a platform on which the birds land to pick seeds from the supply bin. The platform is connected to a spring so that, in theory, if something too heavy sits on it, it closes the opening to the seed supply. It’s so old, the spring action hardly works any more.
However, my experience is that a smart squirrel will figure out that spring-closing trick in no time. They hang upside down to keep their weight off the platform, or otherwise stretch their bodies across the opening — while pigging out on the seeds.
You really don’t need a fancy feeder — or a book — to keep squirrels away. It’s the mounting, not the feeder, that makes the difference.
Our two main feeding “stations” sit atop poles stuck in the ground. The feeders are between five and six feet off the ground.
A few inches beneath each feeder is a baffle. On one pole, I use a metal cone and on the other, a plastic disk that looks sort of like a big Frisbee. Other kinds look like inverted bowls or even long, tin cans. In five years, I have yet to find a squirrel that can get around either of those baffles, which cost between $10 and $20 each. That’s a small investment, considering the saving in seeds.
You can also use baffles with feeders that hang on wires — the baffle goes above instead of below the feeder.
There are caveats. You must keep the whole array, either pole or wire mounted, away from low-hanging trees, nearby shrubs, or parts of the house that a squirrel can climb and then leap from to reach the feeder. You need to have the feeder at least six feet in the open. I had to trim back an apple tree, from which the squirrels could jump and land atop the feeders.
There are many other ways of dealing with squirrels. You can string feeders from a wire strung between the house to the garage or a tree, but you need baffles near each end of the wire. You can also hang feeders outside windows high off the ground, as explained in last week’s column.
One place to learn more about the battle with squirrels is squirrelproofer.com. Check out the entertaining video of the feeder set-up that employs a Slinky as a baffle! It shows just how clever and persistent squirrels can be.
Great Meadows, trip to popular Stratford bird sanctuaries for over-wintering ducks, hawks, owls, and other winter specialties, with Brian O’Toole, Saturday, Jan. 8, 8 to 2 p.m., $15, van provided, Greenwich Audubon, 613 Riversville Road, RSVP 203-869-5272 x221, greenwich.audubon.org.
Free winter bird walk, Westport hotspots with Tina Green, Saturday, Jan. 8, 8 a.m., Sunrise Birding, www.sunrisebirding.com/walks.htm.
Exploring the World of Owls, ages 5 and up, Sunday, Jan. 9, 3:30 to 5:30 pm., Greenwich Audubon, 613 Riversville Road, RSVP 203-869-5272 x221, greenwich.audubon.org.
Family-friendly Bird Count, ‘Project FeederWatch’ Saturday, Jan. 15, 1 to 2:30 p.m., Greenwich Audubon, 613 Riversville Road, RSVP 203-869-5272 x221, greenwich.audubon.org.
‘EagleFest’ on the Hudson River, eagle watching with warming tents, exhibits, live eagle programs, Saturday, Feb. 5, 9 to 4, Croton Point Park, (914) 762-2912 or www.teatown.org.
“First Sundays,” bird walks open to all ages and skills, at Greenwich Point, with Meredith Sampson, first Sunday of the month, through May, 9 a.m. sponsored by Wild Wings, Inc., Bruce Museum and Audubon Greenwich, 203-637-9822.
Copyright 2010 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] yahoo.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877; or call 203-438-1183, extension BIRD (2473), and leave a message with your report, spelling your first and last names and telling us your town. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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