Feeding birds is for the squirrels, too

Becky Campbell • Feb 10, 2018 at 12:00 AM

I’ve taken up a new hobby in the past couple of years — feeding the squirrels.

Yep, you read that right. Well, I feed squirrels. Via bird feeders.

It didn’t start out that way, and I did everything possible to prevent it. I wanted a distraction from my day, and I wanted that distraction to bring a smile to my face. So I decided to get bird feeders.

If you’ve ever ventured into that hobby, you know that quality bird feeders aren’t cheap. Of course, being penny-wise, I bought what I though was a middle-of-the-road feeder to hang on shepherd’s hooks with the thought, ‘There’s no way a squirrel can climb that slick pole to get to the feeder.’

Go ahead and laugh. I know you want to. I was wrong.

Boy, was I wrong. Those dang things climb up the pole, reach over and grab the feeder and hang upside down to get to the seed.

I was beating my head against a wall after an obviously large family of squirrels and their extended families decided my bird feeders were easy targets when food in the woods was scarce. Or maybe they’re just lazy. Who knows.

The first few weeks I’m not even sure any birds were able to get to the feeder because of all the squirrels that scurried up those metal poles, jumped over to the feeder and chomped away as the feeder swung back and forth. And it amazed me how well they recovered from jumping off the feeder as I ran out the door screaming at them.

I read up on the subject — something I had done prior to this new hobby, but I was certain squirrels were not going to bring me the same frustration others had experienced — and tried a few tricks.

First was spreading petroleum jelly on the pole holding the feeders. All that seemed to do was get gunk on my hands, and it didn’t do a thing to slow those darn squirrels down. I tried cooking spray. That didn’t really help either. I never tried the slinky trick, which is supposed to prevent the squirrel from getting up the pole because they grab onto the slinky and just bounce up and down with the slinky. The video on Facebook is pretty convincing, but I never tried that method.

I did, however, buy “squirrel proof” feeders.

Did you know that squirrels can defeat “squirrel proof” bird feeders? I have one that’s shaped like a red barn. It has little triggers on the perch so if something heavier than a large bird grabs hold, it pushes down and closes the little food holes. Well, squirrels know how to hang from the bottom of that feeder and get their stinking faces into that hole.

Don’t even get me started on the tray feeders.

Yes, they’re great for bigger birds like blue jays, doves and mockingbirds. But that thing is just a squirrel’s seed buffet. They sit right in the middle and stuff themselves as fast as they can. I even put up squirrel feeders, and while they like those — particularly the Adirondack chair in which they sit back and chill while munching on a corn roll —  they seem to like the bird seed better.

The only feeders the squirrels don’t seem attracted to are finch socks and hummingbird feeders. So, the hobby I took up to lessen my stress was just shooting my blood pressure up every time I saw a squirrel.

Finally, I decided to let it go. If the birds are OK with squirrels joining in the feast, well, who am I to say no? I won’t let the squirrels dissuade me from continuing my bird feeding hobby. In fact, I’ve come to even enjoy those four-legged creatures as well. Actually, it’s pretty darn funny to watch their ingenuity in figuring out a new way to outsmart me. I guess it doesn’t take much.

Even with all the trickery I tried, I just couldn’t keep the squirrels away.

The birds did come, and I can count on a wide variety every morning and evening — cardinals, bluejays, mockingbirds, doves, downy woodpeckers and finches of all types. And yes, they bring a smile to my face. As for the squirrels, I gave up. I’ll continue to fill the bird feeders and “allow” the squirrels to keep coming to the buffet.

But if they start inviting the bears, then the bird feeders will go away.



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