Feeder Pests and
Unwanted Guests

Take Back your Feeders Today


I have feeder pests.

I hear this all the time.

If you follow some of these ideas, you can reclaim your bird feeders.

You've created a balanced backyard habitat, a complex, interdependent web of living creatures is sharing your property.

You've noticed that you can't always pick and choose which insects, birds and other animals move to your yard.

You've discovered that living close to wildlife means adapting your behavior to theirs, and outsmarting or excluding them where they create a nuisance you can't live with.

Feeder pests and unwanted guests.

You throw things and squirt water at them.

Opossum getting a Mid-night snack

Feeder Pests.

Feeding birds is supposed to lower your blood pressure, but when the veins start popping in your forehead and neck and you start pulling out your hair, it is time to fight back.

Feeder pests and uninvited guests can be squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, and other mammals.

Hawks or other nuisance birds can take the joy out of feeding birds.

Cats, present a whole different set of issues and will be discussed on a separate page.

As pests, squirrels rule.

Keeping squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks or other unwanted guests from our feeders is a multi million dollar business. And why not, these feeder pests have all day to figure out our schemes.

Although it can be fun to watch a persistent squirrel finagle its way to your bird food, it's less amusing if they eat up all your seeds, chew holes in your feeders, and discourage your feeder birds from visiting.

Squirrels can leap several feet horizontally or from above onto your feeder. Position your feeders so that they are at least 10 feet away from jumping-off points.

One way to outwit these furry-tailed feeder pests is to distract them by feeding them peanuts or dried ears of corn in a location some distance from your feeders.

But this tactic might not work for long.

If you are offering squirrels corn and other stuff, they will head to the feeders where the peanuts, sunflower seed and suet are being offered.

Squirrels want the good stuff too, and will go to great lengths to get at it.

You may also try 'squirrel-proof' bird feeders. But beware, these guys often outwit numerous varieties.

Properly placed squirrel baffles are a good bet.

These are barriers, often shaped like an inverted bowl, that are placed between feeder pests and feeders.

Usually when feeder pests land on a baffle, it simply slides off. On pole-mounted feeders, baffles should be fixed in place under the feeder at least 4 feet off the ground.

On hanging feeders, a tilting baffle at least 18 inches in diameter should be installed above the feeder.

As an alternative to commercially-made plastic baffles, bird watchers have used old vinyl records, plastic salad bowls, two-liter soda bottles, stove pipes, PVC pipes, plastic buckets and other stuff.

If you don't want bulky or unsightly baffles, here is a tip.

A favorite trick of mine 'Carpet Tack Strip'. Carpet tack strip is the thin board covered with little nails that is used to keep your carpeting in place.

Inexpensive, yet very effective at keeping pests at bay (guaranteed to work).

Nail it down or use adjustable clamps to keep it in place. Be sure to cover enough of the pole so pests can't jump above it.

You can clamp, duct tape or nail this product down to shepherd hooks, metal poles or wooden posts of all sizes.

Properly used, this will keep virtually all pests off your feeder.

If your feeder is hung from a horizontal line, another anti-squirrel tactic is to thread the line through several lengths of plastic tubing, end to end; the tubing should spin when a squirrel tries to walk on it.

Alternatively, some people have tried suspending feeders on a three- to four-foot length of mono-filament fishing line instead of wire it's too thin for feeder pests to climb on.

You may try a hopper style feeder specifically designed to deter squirrels.

Most use a spring-loaded or counter-weighted gate that closes off access to the seed ports under these feeder pests weight.

The weight adjustment can be changed to selectively exclude larger, undesirable birds as well.

My personal favorite is the Sky Cafe (pictured here). The design is so clever and I never have feeder pests on it.

Sky Baffles can be purchased separately to accommodate most feeders.

Yet another way to keep squirrels from your bird seed is a "squirrel spooker."

As the feeder pests climbs up a feeder pole to reach your feeder, it climbs over a move-able sleeve.

Because of the squirrel's added weight, the sleeve slips down or spins around, dumping the surprised squirrel onto the ground. Once the squirrel has let go, the sleeve automatically moves back into place.

Some backyard birders have been using seeds that are coated with hot pepper or capsaicin products. Theoretically, squirrels avoid the coated seed while birds are unaffected.

Often squirrels adapt, but they can also get hot flakes and dust in their eyes. I have read that squirrels can scratch their eyes out from the pain.

Birds can also breathe in the pepper dust or get the burning flakes in their eyes and causing damage.

Common platform feeders are an open invitation to all the unwanted guests. You can take care of the situation with quick fix.

Tack down some hardware cloth. The 1/2 mesh allows your birds to feed but keeps squirrels and other critters from raiding your platforms.

Be sure your platform is easy to clean.

As with all hanging feeders, be sure to use a wire cable or chain. Ropes and cords will be chewed through or rot in time.

I do not recommend coating feeder poles with grease, oil, or glycerin as anti-feeder pests strategy.

As well as being potentially toxic to wildlife, these substances can also mat fur and feathers, causing them to lose their insulating properties.

This may lead to the animal freezing to death and I don't want that to happen.

If you can't dissuade critters from chewing your feeders to get at the seeds inside, you can buy feeders with cages or, there are tube feeders available with metal-reinforced seed ports.

Some of feeders from Droll Yankees, Aspects and Duncraft come with guarantees against destruction by squirrels.

Other tube feeders offer cages and sometimes cages can be purchased separately.

Deer can often be an unwanted guest to your yard and feeders.

Bambi is cute until feeders are knocked down and your shrubs are chewed on.

Bird netting and smelly sprays can keep them away from your prized plantings, but feeders may offer a different set of problems.

Deer become pests often at night, they will graze on dropped seed and become feeder pests when they beat your feeders and knock the feed out.

Place feeders high enough where deer can't knock them over. They will stand on their hind feet so they can nose at and kick feeders.

Circle your feeding stations with fencing.

Fence placed a couple of feet from your feeders (about 4 feet high) will deter deer, yet allow you to reach your feeders to fill and clean.

Keep the fence lose on top. If another animal tries to climb it, the fence bends back and feeder pests wont be able to climb over.

If your fence is a permanent fixture, you will want to bury several inches and bend it out to discourage digging.

Birds can be unwanted guests as well.

Swarms of Starlings or Grackles appear and chase all of your desirable birds.

Tube feeders without trays will keep these birds at bay.

Tube perches don't offer the perching needed for these birds.

Some manufacturers offer feeders with cages to allow small birds only.

By offering sunflower seed only, you can minimize Grackles and eliminate Starlings.

Starlings can't crack the hard seed open. Grackles can and will, but prefer cracked corn and softer shelled seeds.

Unfortunately, House sparrows have adapted to all of our offerings.

Still, I have found that Black oil sunflower seeds will minimize the number of these feeder pests.

There is a Sparrow halo on the market that was developed and tested by the University of Nebraska.

The halo is said to be 98% effective keeping sparrows away from feeders.

If you must, offer cracked corn and millet placed elsewhere will keep these unwanted guests away from your feeders.

Are hawks uninvited guests or unwanted guests in your yard?

A caged in area will keep these tormentors at bay.

Placing garden fencing around a feeding area or birdbath will deter your favorite birds from getting bushwhacked.

You can also place fishing line around your feeding stations.

Make a tee pee over your feeding station or randomly place the line in and around the area to allow your song birds, but keep large birds and birds of prey at bay.

Birds have great eye sight and will avoid a collision with the strategically placed mono-filament line.

Be sure to offer lots of protection with trees and bushes within 10 to 12 feet from your feeders.

Night time guests may consist of raccoons, opossum, skunks, deer or maybe a bear.

The best thing to do here is bring your feeders in at night or make sure it is empty.

Feeder pests like opossum and raccoons, can't climb thin poles like shepherd hooks.

But, they can climb decks and wooded poles.

Skunks are more of a clean up crew, but sure can ruin a night if your dog gets sprayed.

Not to mention a heart thumping surprise if there is a meeting between you and it.

A bear can get at and destroy just about any feeder.

The safest solution here is to put feeders out after they hibernate.

Never approach a bear.

If you find night time animals in your yard during the day, avoid them.

They are more than feeder pests, this is an indication the critter is sick and possibly with rabies.

Again, one of my favorite solutions to keep feeder pests at bay is placing carpet tack strip on the poles. (wooden and metal poles).

This will keep mammals and snakes from climbing or clinging to a pole.

Your feeders are safe from ground attack.

This strategy also works for pole mounted nest boxes (bluebirds etc.).

Birds and animals are creatures of habit, remove the source and they eventually look elsewhere for food.

Keep your feeding stations clean to minimize other feeder pests like mice, rats, skunks and certain insects.

Catch trays may deter some critters, but keeping the tray clean is Paramount.

Catch trays catch more than seed, it also catches bird droppings.

Bird droppings contaminated with Salmonella bacteria may survive on the catch tray and spread disease among your birds.

Always keep your feed stored in a safe and secure container.

Many of these unwanted guests have a nose for bird seed and will find it if you aren't thinking one step ahead of them.

Snakes become feeder pests when there is a chance to prey on birds.

Most snakes wait and let the prey come to them.

When you plant shrubs, flowers and ground covers under and near your feeding stations, stealthy snakes can wait for lunch to come to them.

Place your feeders in the open, but close enough to protection (10 to 12 feet). This allows for your birds to observe the area and watch for danger.

Our pets can kill and keep birds away too.

Cats are the Number One Feeder Pests, Keep Your Birds Safe.

Feeder Placement

Finch Feeders

Hummingbird Feeders

Feeding Hummingbirds, Tips and Pests

Hopper Feeders

Platform Feeders

Specialty Feeders

Suet Feeders

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