Friday, February 24, 2017

Who got busted?

Squirrels aren't visitors to my garden - they're residents.  Ever since we moved in and I put up my bird feeders, we've been at loggerheads.  I've gradually replaced my "squirrel resistant" feeders with tougher models, marketed as "squirrel busters."  Have I been successful in eliminating bird seed theft?  You can be the judge.

A squirrel tackles the original "squirrel buster" feeder without success

He shifts position and tries another angle, also without success

These close ups of the same type of feeder show it in the open mode (left) and the closed mode (right).  The squirrel's own weight, whether applied to the perches or the cage surrounding the feeder, covers the feeding portal

He moves over to the next feeder, sold as a "Squirrel Buster Plus," nimbly clinging to the feeder pole using his back legs but his paws on the feeder ring close the seed portals

These close-up show the open feed portals (left) and what happens when pressure is applied to the support ring (right)

He moves to the oldest model feeder, covered by a simple cage

Unlike the cage my husband constructed for one of my earlier feeders, he's been unable to break into this one by chewing through or bending the supports

In a creative play, he tries using the third feeder to access the second but pressing the ring surrounding the feed portals once again shuts off his access to the seed

Frustrated, he takes a break sitting on top of the third feeder.  At this point, I assumed he'd given up.

But then he tries a gymnastic move, clinging to the top of the third feeder by his feet and stretching across to the second feeder.  I initially thought this strategy was also unsuccessful until I reviewed my photos and realized that he'd avoided pressing his paws on the feed portal ring.  You can see that the portals aren't closed.  He's busted the feeder's defenses!


It wasn't the fault of the feeder, though.  It was my fault in providing him a platform to access it.  However, I don't think it was easy for him to feed from that angle as he quickly gave up the effort.  I'll probably replace the old, caged feeder eventually anyway but, for now, I'm satisfied that he's not stealing much from the birds.  He mainly makes do with what the birds drop on the ground, which is plenty.

The side garden, which also has 3 feeders, has one that's vulnerable to intrusions too.  I refilled them yesterday and, as I was doing so this fellow showed up.

This is a Western Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica), a pretty bird but a bully of sorts.  When he arrives, the smaller birds scatter until he moves on.  He isn't much afraid of humans either. 


He wasn't at all interested in the dried-up toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) berries scattered about.  He wanted bird seed and he wasn't at all afraid to take it with me standing a couple of feet away.  He can't feed from the newer feeders but he has no problem with an old model.  It may be squirrel resistant but it's not Scrub Jay-proof.

The squirrel's weight on the bar the jay is standing on would shut off access to the seed but the jay is light enough  to avoid this.  On occasion, the squirrels manage to lift the lid from the back and dump the seed on the ground.  I haven't seen them do this but I have found the seed covering the ground underneath the feeder.  Having seen their work on the back garden feeders, I now suspect that they may be using the nearby feeders as perches.


Squirrels!  They keep us hopping!


Note: I have no relationship with the companies that make or market the squirrel buster feeders.


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

12 comments:

  1. You're so right about residents, but your squirrel proof feeders are doing a good job. I am googling..

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    1. I think your twirl-a-squirrel feeder is still among the best things I've seen, Jessica, if only for its "gotcha" factor.

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  2. That jay is a delight, bully or not. And you should build up a relationship with the manufacturers of those feeders. They look good, pity they don't work. Yesterday I watched a mouse under my feeder. I'm not sure I like to think too much about that. Still, you get jays I get long tailed tits although have not photographed them as yet.

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    1. The jays, like the squirrels, are year-round residents here, Ian. I think they actually nest very near to the 3 feeders in my south-end garden. They're definitely opportunists, but then the same is true of the squirrels, the raccoons and the skunks.

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  3. Replies
    1. I reserve that level of dislike for the raccoons.

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  4. We used to have one of the motorized feeders that spun the squirrels off, but it wore out and at least one squirrel learned to jam itself between the perch and the feeder to stop it from spinning. Have you seen the videos of squirrels vs. slinkies? Unfortunately, I found a few where the squirrel managed to outwit the slinky, but they're still hilarious.

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    1. I'd seen the slinky squirrel deterrent but didn't remember how it worked until I looked it up. I may need to add a slinky to my own feeder pole, especially as the squirrel seems to be perfecting the gymnastic technique he demonstrated in my photo montage.

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  5. My late father-in-law would have loved this post. He dedicated countless hours to the problem of squirrels on his bird feeders. I must say that they are very resourceful rodents!

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    1. I even have a book on defeating squirrels, Eliza, not that it helped much beyond clarifying the wily nature of the adversary. Even my scientist husband, after winning a few battles, lost the war in reinforcing the defenses of one of my old feeders. Squirrels are nothing if not tenacious!

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  6. Those squirrels are smart little devils. None of my feeders stop them even the one where the food drops down when they get on the perch. But the worst squirrel of all at the moment is the rock squirrel. He is just being a real pest.

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    1. The squirrel found its way around my "squirrel buster" feeder too but I can thwart him by swapping out the caged feeder for one elsewhere in the garden, depriving him of the platform he uses for his gymnastic move. Of course, that may create an issue on the other side of the garden...

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