NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.– Whether you are new to the world of birding or are an experienced veteran, having squirrels ransack your feeders can be a major nuisance. Recently, fellow Tweetspeak correspondent Linzy Borowicz and I headed to the Field Station to figure out how to stump these common critters.
According to Westminster College teaching assistant, Madison Gallucci, the squirrels aren’t actually a threat to your birds. They are likely, however, to steal your feed and probably scare your target species away in the process. One thing that you can try, she said, is to suspend your feeder in the air, rather than have it attach to the tree itself. In our interview, Madison directed our attention out the window and to a bird feeder hanging from a branch using a pulley system. The feeder was put on a long, thin rope, fed through a pulley that was attached to the branch of a tree, and tied to the wooden fence below it, which tethered the whole contraption in place.
“It’s hanging from the branch,” she said, “but it’s not actually … attached to the tree, and then that way the bird can fly and land on the feeder and the squirrel can’t get to the feeder to disturb the birds.” You can see the system described in the photo below.
The fact of the matter is that the squirrel may still be able to get to this feeder in the end. Yes, our squirrel-proof bird feeder may not be so squirrel proof. Madison explained that, while it is possible for this to happen, it is unlikely. She touched briefly on the concept of risk vs. reward. For a further in-depth explanation of this concept, we turned to Dr. Kerri Duerr, Ornithologist and Westminster College biology professor.
“Every species faces a dilemma of whether or not there is enough of a reward to go to a certain feeder, or if the risk outweighs the reward,” she told us. This is the basic gist of risk vs. reward. In other words, squirrels are actually smart enough to assess the fact that there are easier sources of food that require much less energy to get to, and most likely won’t bother a feeder such as the one at the Field Station that was mentioned before.
If you find that you’re still struggling to keep the squirrels away, a good website to check out is the Humane Society Website. Here, the Humane Society lists a few different ways to thwart the little guys without hurting them, including trying different bird feeder designs, using different birdseed, and other ways that avoid causing harm to all parties involved.