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Our Feathered Friends - November 16, 2011

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Hello, again! Has anyone spotted any of our winter visitors? I've been keeping an eye out for them but have yet to spot any. Please send me an email if you have seen any!

Last week I talked about the types of bird seed available and what our little feathered friends prefer most. Many of you may be wondering about squirrels and how to protect our bird seed from their greedy little paws. There is no quick or simple solution to this problem and many, including our Bird Guru Ray, have found it is easier to just feed them (in a separate area). Feeding them inexpensive cracked corn, ears of dried corn and peanuts in their shells is an easy way to fill them up and prevent them from going after your expensive bird seed. This is the solution Ray gave me a few years ago when I was doing battle with some squirrels of my own. My daughter, Anna, told me to go with Rays suggestion. She said they needed to eat as well, and they were cute. Therefore, we installed a special squirrel feeder given to her by Kenneth Morgan, who read of her interest in one of Rays articles and offered his hand made creation for her enjoyment. It has been one of her favorite and most cherished gifts!

As you most likely know, squirrels are not only very smart but rather agile. They can jump eight feet straight up and 11 feet if jumping off something, like a roof or tree branch. They also love to chew, and anything you put out will likely be chewed and tested. So you need to start with a strong bird feeder, preferably one made out of an indestructible material like Lexan or metal. You can go with a cheaper plastic feeder if it is reinforced with metal around the seed holes/ports.

If possible try to ensure your feeder is more than 10 feet from any jump off point. Using a baffle can be very effective, but be sure it is at least 18 inches in diameter. Anything less and the squirrels will likely be able to maneuver around it. If putting the baffle on a hanging bird feeder, be sure the baffle is just above the feeder and opens down towards the ground. If you use a baffle for a post mounted feeder, be sure the baffle is just below the feeder. The direction of a post mounted feeder is up for debate. It seems it has its benefits both ways, so you may want to try it opening up and down to determine which works best for you. A post mounted feeder away from any launch zone and with a proper baffle is one of the best methods to feed our feathered friends! However, if you are like me with lots of trees, I lack an area that is free of a launch zone, so it is easiest to hang the feeders. If you have hanging feeders do not use chain or rope, which is easy for them to climb! Instead use a thick nylon fishing line (with a baffle).

If you have a horizontal line with feeders it is also wise to use a fishing line, but you can add sections of plastic tubing on the line which will spin when the squirrel tries to climb across. Many people will grease or oil their poles or lines, and this can be semi effective for short periods of time. However, it is dangerous not only for the squirrels, but other animals that can get the oil in their hair or feathers and freeze to death in cold temps.

There are also fancy weighted bird feeders that will shut when a heavy animal tries to feed from them, but Ive heard many stories of squirrels who have outsmarted these. You can also try adding hot peppers/powder to your bird seed which the squirrels can taste and hate but has no effect on our feathered friends. Please let me know if you have any successful methods or devices you use to protect your bird feeders so I can pass the info along. You can email me at karen.feathered@gmail.com. Again, we wish our dear friend Ray a speedy recovery!

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