Birds are not afraid of squirrels unless food is involved. Conflict between these species commonly occurs at bird feeders. Squirrels have a ravenous appetite, which they will go to great lengths to satiate. They become territorial around bird feeders, often attacking and scaring away birds to control the food supply.
It’s time to talk about the birds and the…squirrels?
As two of the more common animals in nature, people often question how these species interact.
The truth is birds and squirrels tend to get along just fine. There are a few exceptions, but generally, these species are not predatory towards one another.
Birds aren’t bothered by squirrels and will fly away if a squirrel gets too close. However, conflict can arise when food is involved…primarily at bird feeders.
Birds and Squirrels in Nature
All About Birds
Birds are vertebrate animals adapted for flight. With around 10,000 different species in existence, birds are one of the most diverse animal groups in the world. In the United States alone, there are over 1,000 species. An estimated 50 to 450 billion birds live on Earth, varying widely in size, shape, habitat, and ability.
Common characteristics of birds include feathers, wings (although some cannot fly), a four-chambered heart, a beak with no teeth, a lightweight but strong skeleton, and the ability to produce hard-shelled eggs.
In the United States, birds typically found in backyards are robins, cardinals, mourning doves, blue jays, starlings, mockingbirds, sparrows, and wrens.
All About Squirrels
Squirrels are nimble, bushy-tailed rodents found throughout the world. There are over 250 species of squirrels, broken into three primary families: tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels.
Squirrels typically have slender bodies, long bushy tails, and large eyes. They can vary significantly in size, ranging from 4 inches to 4 feet, and weigh anywhere from 0.42 ounces to 18 pounds.
The most common species of squirrels in the United States, and the ones most likely to prey on your bird feeder, are the Eastern Gray Squirrel, the American Red Squirrel, and Fox Squirrels.
Do Squirrels Prey on Birds?
Squirrels have a ravenous appetite and will eat just about anything they can get their hands on. They eat fruits, flowers, vegetables, nuts, plants, and insects. As scavengers, they will go to great lengths to find food.
Squirrels are not classified as predators of adult birds. However, they are sometimes known to ravage bird’s nests, eating eggs and nestlings.
Being the opportunistic eaters they are, squirrels will also eat dead birds. If no other food source is available, and a squirrel becomes desperate, it might try to prey on an adult bird.
Do Birds Prey on Squirrels?
A bird’s diet will vary depending on the size and species. Typically, they eat insects, seeds, grass, flowers, berries, and nuts. Larger birds eat small animals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and other birds.
While your common backyard birds do not prey on squirrels, eagles, hawks, and owls are considered major predators to squirrels, often swooping down and preying on them from above.
Keeping Peace in Your Backyard
Bird feeders are a great way to attract wild birds and liven up your backyard. But by leaving out free food, you could attract unwanted guests. It’s only a matter of time before a squirrel discovers your food source and marks its territory, creating a conflict in your yard.
Squirrels are voracious eaters with territorial tendencies. While birds share feeders, squirrels will attack and frighten birds, so they get the feeder all to themselves. They’ll often stay at the same feeder and eat until the food is gone.
Once a squirrel discovers a food source, you can expect frequent visits, making your yard even less appealing to birds since squirrels are known to eat eggs and kill hatchlings.
By implementing a few precautions, such as squirrel-proofing your feeder, using squirrel repellents, and feeding squirrels separately, you can avoid confrontation between birds and squirrels in your yard.
Squirrel-Proofing Your Bird Feeder
Squirrels are intelligent, persistent, and acrobatic. These are all features that make it challenging to keep them from reaching your bird feeder.
But by making adjustments to your current feeder, you can prevent squirrels from scaring off birds and depleting your food supply.
Choose The Right Location
Choosing the right location can make a massive difference in preventing squirrels from dominating your feeder.
Squirrels can leap vertically up to eight feet off the ground and propel themselves horizontally up to seven feet from a tree or building.
You want to place your feeder high off the ground and away from any trees or structures that squirrels can climb.
Position it so there’s no shot a squirrel can reach because if there’s even a slight chance, they’ll find a way to get that food.
A Slim Metal Pole and a Baffle
If you cannot find a good spot to hang your feeder, the next best solution would be to buy a slim metal pole to hang your feeder.
Squirrels have difficulties grasping and climbing slim poles. However, that might not be enough. You’ll also want to purchase a baffle or obstacle and place it around your pole.
The baffle prevents squirrels from climbing to the top because as soon as they reach the baffle, there’s no way around it.
If you go this route, place your pole away from any structures that squirrels can leap off and onto your feeder.
Cover Your Bird Feeder
Placing a cage around your feeder prevents squirrels from getting to the food.
An effective cage will have gaps big enough for small birds to enter and small enough to keep squirrels out.
Keep in mind that a cage around your feeder will prevent larger birds from reaching the food, so this solution only works if you only want to attract small birds.
If you want to avoid squirrels altogether, there are options to permanently repel them from your yard.
Dogs are some of the best squirrel repellents because they chase and try to hunt squirrels, which scares them off. The scent of dog urine also serves as a warning sign to squirrels that a predator is nearby.
If you’re not a dog person, you can use scent-based tactics to ward off squirrels.
Squirrels have a strong sense of smell and hate certain scents. Cayenne pepper, vinegar, peppermint, cinnamon, coffee grounds, garlic, and bars of Irish Spring soap are all scents that will have squirrels heading in the opposite direction.
Spice Things Up With a Dash of Cayenne
One of the more straightforward solutions is filling your bird feeder with seeds squirrels don’t like.
Nyjer seeds and safflower seeds have a bitter taste, making squirrels avoid them.
If switching seeds doesn’t work, you can add cayenne pepper to your seeds. Squirrels are sensitive to spicy foods, while birds are not. Cayenne pepper will leave a horrible taste in squirrels’ mouths and make them apprehensive about returning to your feeder.
Feed Squirrels Separately
If you’re partial to the cute little critters and enjoy watching their wacky antics, the best solution for maintaining peace in your backyard is to feed birds and squirrels separately.
Set up an area away from your bird feeder specifically to feed squirrels.
Make sure it’s low to the ground, easily accessible, and fill it with foods squirrels love, like corn, sunflower seeds, berries, and nuts. A separate squirrel feeder lets birds access your feeder unimpeded.
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I am Bryan Powell and I own BirdHour.com. I love bird watching; in fact, I have a parakeet of my own. I enjoy spending time outdoors and observing the natural world around me. This website is a means of sharing my passion for birds with others who may be interested in this activity.