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Many of us feel an affinity toward birds. Birdwatching is an immensely popular outdoor pastime. Over 52 million American households have taken it to the next level and feed our feathered friends too. We want to ensure that they have a reliable food source, especially during the winter months.
That’s what makes pests like squirrels emptying our hummingbird feeders so upsetting. Those are for the birds! The ongoing battle with these animals has endured as long as humans and squirrels have crossed paths. Whether it’s stealing grain or toppling a bird feeder, these rodents have made things difficult.
Part of the problem is that squirrels aren’t as silly as they may seem. They are keen observers of their surroundings and each other. Researchers have found that these animals are resourceful and can learn from their counterparts. If one squirrel has figured out that your hummingbird feeder contains yummy nectar, another one is likely to get in on the action too.
Let the games begin!
It’s essential to put the squirrel’s point-of-view into perspective. Like all wildlife, squirrels are resourceful. Raiding a hummingbird feeder is an instinctive survival strategy. After all, the sugar in the nectar mix is an excellent source of energy that the animal could easily use for fuel. While it’s vexing to have the intruder get at the feeder, survival is their driving force.
The other thing to understand is the agility of squirrels. They can climb a variety of surfaces and jump up to 5 feet high. People who put out bird feeders for other avian species are well aware of the capabilities of this animal. That has opened up a market for a variety of deterrents, such as squirrel baffles.
Squirrels are also tenacious. You’ll likely find that it’s going to be a constant battle. You may succeed in deterring them for a while, they will likely figure out the rouse and go after your hummingbird feeder again. That’s one reason we suggest using a variety of methods instead of just one option.
Our guide will explore several strategies, going from the simplest to more complex solutions. The good news is that you’ll likely repel other pests, such as raccoons and possums, in the process. All these wild animals are opportunistic. The common denominator is to put up barriers because animals want to conserve energy, and obstacles cost fuel, making them effective deterrents.
Wildlife animals often rely on smell. They use it to communicate, find mates, and home in on food sources. That makes keeping your hummingbird feeder clean an essential first step in your battle with squirrels and other pests. The good news is that you’ll also help keep bees and other unwanted visitors away too.
There are two strategies that you can use to thwart these pests. First, you can make the hummingbird feeder inaccessible by putting a cage around it. Keep the gauge big enough for the birds to get through and far enough away that the squirrel’s paws can’t reach it.
The other thing you can try is what author, George Harrison, calls the 5-7-9 rule. Squirrels can’t jump higher than 5 feet or 7 feet horizontally. Likewise, they won’t drop down more than 9 feet. Using those figures, place your hummingbird feeder out of the pesky pest’s reach.
Sometimes, hummingbird feeders leak. That is like putting out a welcome mat for squirrels and other intruders. If you notice that it empties quicker than you’d expect, take it down and either fix or replace it.
The following steps are more involved but are effective if the critter is especially tenacious. Capsaicin is the chemical in chili peppers that gives them their heat. Applying some on the feeder or in the nectar will have the same effect on the squirrel as it would for a person. Also, birds are not affected.
Wooden poles make getting to a hummingbird feeder a piece of cake for squirrels. To make it harder to climb to the goodies, put PVC pipe around it. Some people have also used petroleum jelly. However, we don’t recommend this because of the mess it creates and what it could do to a bird’s wings.
Squirrels aren’t different from other wildlife when it comes to sourcing their food. They’ll go for the easy pickings first before trying to figure out how to get to your hummingbird feeder. To keep them from the nectar, give them their own food, such as corn cobs or sunflower seeds. They’ll likely pass on the hummingbird feeder for the stuff that they can get without the hassle.
If you don’t have a suitable spot using the 5-7-9 rule, you can still make the hummingbird feeder inaccessible by installing a squirrel baffle on the top and bottom of it. These look like upside-down plates. The pests can’t reach around them or stand on top without slipping off of the baffle. Even if the squirrel can jump to it, they won’t hang around long with one of these in place.
Manufacturers understand the frustration that birdwatchers experience when squirrels attack feeders. That’s why you’ll find squirrel-proof models that cut off the food source when they try to get to the nectar. It’s a $4-billion industry for a good reason.
The following steps are the last resort if nothing has worked for you. You can try and trap the interlopers and move them someplace else. Bear in mind that local and state laws may regulate how and where you can release them. It’s worth noting that the empty squirrel territory won’t stay vacant for long either.
Sometimes, squirrels will move on from your hummingbird feeder and take up residence in your attic. If the problem has progressed to this point, we suggest contacting a nuisance wildlife professional. Your local extension service may provide recommendations on services that you can hire.
We understand that squirrels are just trying to make a living like anyone else. However, when they cross the line and start raiding our bird feeders, it’s time to take action. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make your hummingbird feeder less inviting. You can continue to enjoy your hobby with the peace of mind knowing that you’re doing your part for conservation.
Featured Image Credit : GeorgeB2, Pixabay
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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