UK Safari Home Page
   A Website for Anyone Interested in the
   Wildlife and Countryside of Britain

Nature Photo

 Home | Animals + Nature | Nature Shop | Photography | Members Area | Latest News | Advertise | E-Cards


Free Newsletter

NewsletterSent to you
by e-mail

Simply enter your details and hit the send button
more info

Your name

e-mail address  


First Visit?
Click Here

Explore More

Terms of Use
About Us
Contact Us


Go back Go Back  |  Bookmark Add to Favourites  |  Print Page Print Page  | E-Mail Us Tell us what you think of this page

Warning: Squirrels May Contain Large Quantities of Nuts

Squirrel Feeder - Photo © Copyright 2004 Gary Bradley Photo: G. Bradley

UK Safari Tip:
Subscribers can download this article as an illustrated factsheet from the Members Area - click here

It’s not that we don’t like them, it’s just the damage we’re not too keen on. It was when we were repairing the bird feeders for around the tenth time we decided something ought to be done to stop the grey squirrels gnawing holes through them.

We’d been thinking about putting up a special squirrel feeder, so this seemed a good time to give it a go. Rather than buy one we decided to make our own from some old plywood. It was just like the ones in the catalogue. It had a special platform on the front for the squirrels to stand on, and a lift up lid so they could reach in and grab the nuts. We hung it on a tree, a good distance from the bird feeders, filled it up and waited.

For a couple of days the squirrels took no notice of their new feeder. Occasionally they would have a sniff round it on their way to and from the bird feeders. They could obviously detect the faint aroma of ‘eau de peanuts’ inside, but the easy pickings in the bird feeders were clearly a less complicated option.

After a few days we noticed one squirrel had found his way into the feeder. The lid was up and he was having a good rummage around inside. He kept looking in the box, then looking up, then looking back in the box again. It was like someone with a winning Lotto ticket, who had to keep checking their numbers to make sure it was true. We knew it was a success when he grabbed a nut and scampered off. We figured it was just a matter of time before they were weaned off the bird feeders.

The next day we looked out of the windows to see half a dozen grey squirrels in the garden. This was more than we'd seen in the garden before. There were some on the bird feeders, some on the squirrel feeder, some scurrying around the lawn doing squirrel type things. The arrival of extra squirrels was not something we'd anticipated. We checked the squirrel feeder and it was empty. We thought this was quite a lot of nuts to eat in one day, but we refilled it anyway.

Throughout the morning the squirrels kept visiting their feeder. They also continued to empty and destroy the bird feeders. In the afternoon we checked the squirrel feeder and it was empty again. Maybe this experiment needed a re-think.

If you've ever watched squirrels in the wild you'll know what was going wrong. When there's an abundance of acorns about they eat what they can, then bury the rest. That's exactly what happens when you put a box full of peanuts in your garden for them. They eat what they can, bury the rest, then come back and empty your bird feeders too. The other side-effect of squirrel feeders is that the population grows in proportion to the food supply. More peanuts = more squirrels. We now have around a dozen squirrels, as two of the females have now had babies.

If you're lucky enough to live in an area with red squirrels then putting up a squirrel feeder is a good idea. There are special feeders available which will only allow red squirrels to use them, and prevent the heavier greys from getting a meal. On the other hand, if you're thinking of putting up a squirrel feeder to keep grey squirrels off your bird feeders - forget it. 

The best way to keep your bird feeders strictly for the birds is to invest in some “squirrel-proof” bird feeders. We purchased two of these feeders from the RSPB - one for seeds and one for peanuts. They’re manufactured by “The Nuttery”, based in Pinner, Middx. They’re also available from many large garden centres.

When we first put the feeders up our furry grey chums were convinced they could still grab a free meal. All they managed to do was leap onto the nut feeder and nibble the wires a bit. They had a bit more success with the seed feeder. After leaping onto it, they found they could swing the feeder through 90º and tip the seeds out through the portholes. After we moved the feeder to another location they were unable to leap onto it and the problem was solved. 

The birds took some time getting used to the new experience of dining behind bars, but of course the cage offers the smaller birds the added advantage of protection while they’re feeding from predators such as sparrowhawks. Surprisingly the first birds to adopt the new feeders were house sparrows. It took a full 
three months before the great spotted woodpeckers went near the feeders, but even they've now learnt how to squeeze their heads through the bars. Within a few weeks the nuthatches, tits, finches and all the other birds had mastered the technique too, and the squirrels gave up trying.

Track Down More Info

Download this article as an illustrated factsheet
UK Safari Grey Squirrel Page
UK Safari Red Squirrel Page

 © 2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved