If you have a bird feeder you know what I mean when I say it is more entertaining than a TV. And that as a hobby it can easily creep into an expensive obsession. Though small, your ever-hungry avian visitors consume large amounts of food–we now buy it in 40 pound bags. Then there are the feeders. It’s easy to spend $100, $200, or more on something that has better amenities than your house, but one of the main things that will lead the backyard enthusiast to overspend on a feeder is how well it keeps out squirrels.
I like squirrels. They’re playful, surprisingly intelligent, and will haul off several years’ worth of food in a flash in those cute little cheeks. The Holy Grail of feeders is one that is squirrel-proof. So, when we set up a wild bird feeder the squirrels descended with glee, figuring out how to thwart each new attempt to keep them out. It was fun to watch them try to find ways to get at the feed. They would sit on stumps and branches near it, or on the ground beneath it and chatter as they took turns trying out their plan to get at the food. Eventually, we managed to outsmart them by suspending the feeder off the ground higher than they could jump, away from limbs they could drop from, and out on a wire farther than they could hand-over-hand out to. And the wire had to be small enough that they couldn’t walk out on it–that one is very important as you know if you’ve ever seen them run along power lines.
Squirrels still visit the feeder. In the summer, when the wildflowers give more cover, squirrels, rats, and voles compete with the chickens and peacocks for the seed that falls to the ground. But in the winter the bare ground makes them an easy target for hawks that occasionally drop in, quite dramatically, for lunch.
Everything that appears at the feeder adds to the entertainment and the type of wild birds are a kaleidoscope of varieties and colors that change with the seasons.
For now, the feeder is squirrel-proof but I’ve been laughed at for saying that. Somewhere there’s a nest of them gathered around a stolen drone, chattering and rubbing their little hands together as they figure out how to use it to get at the seed in the feeder.