Squirrels

Fox squirrelIf you feed the birds, sooner or later you are likely to have one or more species of squirrel show up at your feeders.   It’s almost a law of nature.  Most Americans and Canadians (and Britons for that matter) tend to have a love-hate relationship with squirrels.  You either love ’em or hate ’em!

It IS important to realize that squirrels are simply a natural part of the ecosystem.  They are gatherers and consumers of all kinds of nuts and seeds.  And your birdfeeders are like mini-fast food restaurants where they can get an easy meal.  That being said, it’s still easy to get upset when half a dozen or so of them polish off $20 worth of expensive sunflower seed in one gluttonous session!

So if you want to feed the birds, you’ll need to choose one of 3 options:

1.   Aversion –  the low blood pressure approach – just put the seed out and not worry about what eats it.

2.  Exclusion – keep the squirrels off all your birdfeeders.

3.  Diversion – give the squirrels their own food so they’ll stay off your other feeders.

First though, you need to know a little about what and who you’re up against.  Here are some of the common squirrels of the U.S. that are often seen in backyards:

  • Eastern fox squirrel – big, furry, and fat, this reddish-brown squirrel is common in the eastern U.S. often nesting in oak trees.
  • Eastern (or southeastern, western) gray squirrel – the Michael Jordan of the squirrel-world, this little acrobat is increasingly being seen with jet black fur.
  • Red Squirrel (or Pine Squirrel) – is often referred to as the Red Devil.  These squirrels, despite their small size are the most aggressive and destructive of the lot.  They will chew up your brand new expensive bird feeder just to spite you.
  • Flying Squirrel – not to be confused with Rocky, these cute and shy squirrels are nocturnal.  You may have them around and not even know it.
  • Ground Squirrels – include species found in the west and chipmunks.  As their name implies, they tend to burrow in the ground vs. spending much of their time in trees.

Squirrels perform an important service in many ecosystems.  They help to spread forests through their habit of gathering and hoarding tree nuts and other seeds.  So, when they sit in your feeders and stuff their little faces with seed, they’re only doing what their instinct compels them to do.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology