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Squirrelly Situation

Three steps to getting — and keeping — squirrels away from your bird feeders.

What’s one sure thing to make a birder’s blood boil? The sight of a gray bushy tail hanging off the bird feeder! Luckily, there are a few things you can do to discourage the squirrels from scarfing up the bird food (and scaring off your feathered friends).

Step 1: Give everyone a time out.

Remove all the feeders from your yard and put them away for a week or two. This will get the squirrels to move on and search for new food sources. Don’t worry about the birds: They will do the same.

Step 2: Rethink your feeding station.

Before the grand reopening, we have a few tips to help you plan the new setup.

Squirrels are incredibly agile and determined. They have the amazing ability to land on even the smallest, narrowest surface, even after an 11-foot drop. Hang bird feeders a greater distance from the best launching points, like overhanging tree branches and roof lines.

Fill tube feeders with straight nyjer seed or golden safflower. While these attract finches and other small songbirds, these make (most) squirrels say, “No thanks!”

Use feeders and accessories designed to keep squirrels away. Cage feeders have openings wide enough for small birds, but make access much more difficult for squirrels and larger birds. Weight-activated feeders slam shut (or even spin) as soon as a squirrel steps on the perch. Cones and baffles mounted on feeder poles block climbing squirrels and other creatures, like mice and chipmunks.

Step 3: Join ’em!

This step doesn’t appeal to everyone but you could try making food readily available to the squirrels, in hopes they won’t need to mess with your feeders.

Some birders have luck with sprinkling sunflower seeds and other nuggets on the ground. Others create a squirrels-only feeding station, placed well away from the bird feeders. Use a ground feeder or platter, or just hang an old platform feeder from the tree branches, and fill it with wildlife food. Hopefully, the tasty nuggets like flaked corn, whole peanuts and sunflower kernels will let everyone in the yard dine in peace.