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Fooling Squirrels

August 2, 2013

Bird Cam SquirrelLiving in an area chock full of acorn-producing oak trees, you are guaranteed to have acorn-eaters: turkeys, deer, jays, woodpeckers and squirrels.  The acorns are not available all year long, and hardly at all the last few years, as the cyclical outbreak of oak moth really stripped many of the resident oak trees of their leaves, and their ability to produce acorns.  In better years, we all have “volunteer” oak tree seedlings sprouting up in odd places, liked in the potted plants on our deck – forgotten acorns stashed away by the squirrels and jays for the leaner parts of the season. But, our neighborhood squirrels have discovered an easier target for food: our bird feeders.

Truth be told, “fooling squirrels” is an oxymoron – they eventually figure out whatever obstacle or contraption you concoct to keep them out of the bird feeder. When we first moved to Berta Ridge, we hung two cylinder bird feeders: one with wild bird mixed seeds, and one with thistle (nyjer) seed, so that we could attract a variety of birds.  We added a bird bath and we soon found our yard to be a popular spot for a variety of songbirds. It took several months, but soon we found that the feeder would empty completely in one day.  We knew that we didn’t have that many birds.  Eventually, we discovered that the seed thief had four paws and a long bushy tail.

We checked in with our favorite wild bird supply store, and they had just what we needed: a concave, clear plastic dome that fit over the top to the feeder.  This dome was clear so that the birds could still locate the feeder from above, but it was broad and smooth and slippery to little paws that are better adapted to clinging to rough tree bark.  Or, so we thought.

The dome did its job for more than a year.  Then the feeder started to empty again.  Imagine our surprise to look out one day to see this extent of squirrel acrobatics:

That was the end of the dome.

We returned to our favorite wild bird store and searched online, and discovered a lidded wire cage that fit loosely over the feeder, creating more than a squirrel’s arm length space between the outer cage and the feeder openings.  We installed this new contraption, and it probably worked for a month or two.

1240We slowly realize that we are dealing squirrel Houdinis – and that was the end of the cage around the feeder.  And we were seeing more squirrels, which means they were learning more contortions to beat our contraptions…from each other.

We tried another feeder that was supposed to close up the feeder slots as soon as something heavier than a bird landed on the feeder.  It was only a couple weeks before the squirrels thwarted that one, too.

We’re now on yet another feeder.  This one integrates the cage option with the weight-sensitivity feature.  We have also further rigged this feeder, suspending it from a piece of heavy fishing line so that it swings freely.  So far, so good.  But, I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before our fuzzy Houdinis crack this puzzle, too.

From → Mammals

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