Squirrels at my birdfeeder

I used to get really upset by the squirrels eating at my bird feeder, but not so much any more. What changed?

Squirrel at bird feeder ©Megan Stanton 2016

Squirrels are agile gymnasts and great stewards of the wooded areas they live in. They dig holes in the ground to store the seeds and tree nuts they’ve collected so when winter comes, and food becomes scarce, they can dig up dinner when they need to. Even after the snow falls squirrels can find 80% of their food caches. The seeds in the other 20%, protected from the frost and hidden from other animals that may eat them, now have a chance to grow in the spring, continuing the forest’s life cycle.

Squirrel digs up a rock
This squirrel spent a good deal of time digging up this rock under my deck. Perhaps he’s going to use it to seal up one of his food caches. Or maybe he’s making a fort!

A couple years ago when I first set up my feeder, I was constantly chasing squirrels away from it. I wanted to see the birds, after all! It always annoyed me so much that they would get into the feeder and pull it apart to get the seeds. Every time I would come home the feeder would be hanging on its side after a squirrel popped off the top and tipped it over. I even caught one red-handed sitting IN the sideways feeder! What’s a bird lover to do?

Not long after I installed my feeder I started volunteering at my local wildlife rehab center. After just a couple of shifts I started seeing squirrels a bit differently. My first year I basically did nothing but feed baby squirrels and help raise them to adulthood. I began to notice how beautiful these animals are. They are curious and inquisitive, able to thrive among urban sprawl, they’re incredibly agile and a joy to watch.

So instead of continuing to chase the squirrels away from my bird feeder, or poisoning or trapping them, I simply lowered it so the squirrels can get at the seed without having to climb all over it, tipping it over in the process. And what about the birds? They still visit! They eat what’s dropped by the squirrel and left behind. There is room and food enough for everyone at my feeder.

Chickadee at the feeder
A very enthusiastic Chickadee eats what the squirrel dropped.

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