Squirrels Swinging On Bird Feeders: Why They Do It And How To Stop It

Few things are as frustrating as looking out your window to see a mischievous squirrel dangling from your bird feeder and scaring away your feathered friends. While amusing to watch, a squirrel dominated feeder prevents birds from getting the seeds and nutrition they need.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Squirrels swing on bird feeders because of their agility and persistence in getting food. You can deter them by using specialized squirrel-proof feeders, placing feeders far from trees, applying hot pepper spray, and more.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into exactly why squirrels take over bird feeders, the different techniques they use, and most importantly, how to get squirrels off your bird feeders for good.

Why Squirrels Take Over Bird Feeders

Squirrels are known for their pesky behavior when it comes to bird feeders. They seem to have a knack for finding a way to swing from the feeders and get to the delicious seeds, leaving the birds with little to eat. But why do squirrels take over bird feeders in the first place?

Squirrels Are Opportunistic Feeders

Squirrels are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will take advantage of any available food source. When they spot a bird feeder filled with seeds, they see it as an easy meal. Squirrels have a keen sense of smell and can quickly locate the feeders, even from a distance.

Once they find it, they will stop at nothing to get to the food inside.

They Have Excellent Climbing and Jumping Ability

Squirrels are natural acrobats with impressive climbing and jumping abilities. They can easily scale trees, walls, and even bird feeder poles with ease. Their sharp claws and strong hind legs allow them to navigate almost any obstacle in their path.

With their agile movements, squirrels can make their way onto bird feeders and swing from them without any trouble.

Bird Seed is an Easy Food Source for Squirrels

Bird seed is a highly attractive food source for squirrels. It is packed with nutrients and calories, making it an ideal meal for these furry creatures. The seeds are easily accessible in bird feeders, providing a convenient buffet for squirrels.

Additionally, the seeds are often scattered on the ground by birds, further enticing squirrels to take over the feeders.

According to a study conducted by the National Wildlife Federation, squirrels are responsible for consuming up to 25% of the bird seed in feeders.

Now that we understand why squirrels take over bird feeders, let’s explore some strategies to stop them from doing so.

Squirrel Techniques for Getting Bird Food

Squirrels are notorious for their relentless pursuit of bird food. With their nimble bodies and sharp claws, they have developed various techniques to access the tasty treats intended for our feathered friends. Here are some of the most common squirrel techniques for getting bird food:

Acrobatic Leaps onto Platform Feeders

One of the most impressive squirrel techniques is their acrobatic leaps onto platform feeders. These clever critters will launch themselves from nearby trees or structures, defying gravity with their daring jumps.

Once they land on the feeder, they use their agile paws to snatch the bird food, leaving the birds flabbergasted.

Swinging from Hanging Feeders

Another skill squirrels have mastered is swinging from hanging feeders. They will hang onto the feeder with their hind legs and use their body weight to sway back and forth, reaching for the bird food. It’s like a squirrel playground, with these furry acrobats showing off their swinging skills.

Chewing Through Plastic and Wood Feeders

Squirrels are not just agile, they are also persistent. When faced with plastic or wood feeders that are supposed to be squirrel-proof, they will not hesitate to chew through them. Their sharp teeth can easily gnaw through these materials, allowing them to access the bird food inside.

It’s a squirrel’s version of breaking into a safe.

According to a study conducted by the National Wildlife Federation, squirrels can consume up to 20% of the bird food intended for birds. This not only deprives the birds of their essential nutrition, but it can also lead to the spread of diseases among the squirrels themselves.

To prevent squirrels from raiding your bird feeders, there are a few strategies you can try. These include using squirrel-proof feeders with mechanisms that make it difficult for squirrels to access the food, placing feeders away from trees or structures that squirrels can use as launching pads, and providing alternative feeding stations for squirrels to distract them from the bird feeders.

For more information on squirrel-proofing your bird feeders, you can visit the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at www.allaboutbirds.org.

Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder Options

Are squirrels constantly raiding your bird feeders and leaving your feathered friends hungry? Don’t worry, there are several effective options available to keep those pesky squirrels at bay. Here are some squirrel-proof bird feeder options that can help you maintain a peaceful feeding station for your birds.

Feeders with Weight-Sensitive Perches or Doors

One popular option is to invest in a bird feeder equipped with weight-sensitive perches or doors. These feeders are designed to close or collapse under the weight of a squirrel, denying them access to the birdseed.

When a squirrel jumps onto the perch, it triggers a mechanism that shuts the openings, preventing them from reaching the food. This type of feeder allows birds of smaller weight, such as finches and chickadees, to feed undisturbed while deterring larger and heavier squirrels.

Slick Metal Poles and Baffles

Another effective strategy is to use slick metal poles and baffles to deter squirrels. Squirrels are skilled climbers, but they struggle to gain a foothold on slippery surfaces. By mounting your bird feeder on a metal pole with a squirrel baffle positioned beneath it, you create an obstacle that squirrels find difficult to overcome.

The baffle serves as a physical barrier that prevents squirrels from reaching the feeder from below.

Feeders with Obstructed Access

Feeders that utilize obstructed access can also be effective in deterring squirrels. These feeders feature cages or wire mesh that allow small birds to access the food while keeping squirrels out. The spaces between the wires are too small for squirrels to squeeze through, ensuring that only birds can feed.

This option is particularly useful if you enjoy watching larger birds, like cardinals and jays, as they can still access the feeder while keeping the squirrels away.

Remember, it may take some trial and error to find the best squirrel-proof bird feeder option for your situation. What works in one area may not be as effective in another. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few attempts to find the right solution – the reward of watching your feathered friends enjoy their meals without squirrel interference will be well worth it!

Other Deterrents to Keep Squirrels Away

Applying Hot Pepper Spray

One effective way to deter squirrels from bird feeders is by applying hot pepper spray. Squirrels have a sensitive sense of taste and smell, and the spicy nature of the spray is highly unpleasant for them.

The capsaicin in the pepper spray acts as a deterrent, making the birdseed unappetizing to the squirrels. It is important to note that while this method is effective for deterring squirrels, it does not harm them.

There are various commercially-available hot pepper sprays specifically designed for deterring squirrels, which can be easily applied to the bird feeder.

Positioning Feeders Far from Trees

Squirrels are agile climbers and can easily jump from trees onto bird feeders. One way to deter them is by positioning the feeders far away from trees or any other structures that squirrels can use as a launching point.

By creating a significant distance between the feeders and potential squirrel access points, it becomes more challenging for squirrels to reach the feeders. This method can be particularly effective if there are no other nearby trees or structures that squirrels can use to gain access to the feeders.

Using PVC Pipe Guards

Another effective deterrent is using PVC pipe guards. These guards can be placed around the bird feeder pole, creating a barrier that prevents squirrels from climbing up and accessing the feeder. PVC pipe guards are easy to install and can be purchased at most hardware stores.

The smooth surface of the pipe makes it difficult for squirrels to gain traction and climb up to the bird feeder. This method is a physical barrier that prevents squirrels from reaching the birdseed, ensuring that the birds can enjoy their food undisturbed.

Trying Motion-Activated Sprinklers

Motion-activated sprinklers are a clever way to deter squirrels from bird feeders. These devices are equipped with sensors that detect motion, and when a squirrel approaches the feeder, the sprinkler is triggered, releasing a burst of water.

The sudden spray of water startles the squirrels and makes them retreat. Over time, squirrels learn to associate the bird feeder with the unexpected water spray, and they are less likely to return. Motion-activated sprinklers are a humane and effective method to keep squirrels away from bird feeders.

When to Call in a Professional for Squirrel Removal

Signs of Major Structural Damage

If you notice signs of major structural damage caused by squirrels, it is important to call in a professional for squirrel removal. Squirrels have strong teeth and claws that can cause extensive damage to your home, including chewing through electrical wires, insulation, and even wooden beams.

This can pose a serious safety hazard and lead to costly repairs if not addressed promptly. A professional squirrel removal service will not only remove the squirrels from your property but also assess and repair any structural damage caused by their presence.

Large Infestations of Several Squirrels

If you are dealing with a large infestation of several squirrels, it is advisable to seek professional help. Squirrels are known to reproduce quickly, and a small squirrel problem can quickly escalate into a full-blown infestation.

A professional squirrel removal service will have the expertise and equipment to effectively and safely remove multiple squirrels from your property. They will also be able to identify and address any underlying issues that may be attracting the squirrels to your property, such as accessible food sources or entry points.

Persistence After Numerous Failed Attempts

If you have tried multiple methods to deter squirrels from your bird feeders or property, but they persistently continue to cause damage or access your property, it may be time to call in a professional.

Squirrels are incredibly resourceful and determined creatures, and they can find ways to overcome most DIY deterrents. A professional squirrel removal service will have access to more advanced and effective methods of squirrel exclusion and deterrents.

They will also be able to provide guidance on long-term strategies to prevent squirrels from returning to your property.

Remember, squirrels may be cute and entertaining to watch, but their presence can lead to significant damage and inconvenience. Knowing when to call in a professional for squirrel removal is essential to protect your home and property.

If you are unsure whether you need professional help, it is always a good idea to consult with a reputable squirrel removal service for guidance and assistance.


Crafty squirrels swinging from your bird feeder may be entertaining at first, but can quickly become a nuisance. By understanding the techniques squirrels use to access feeders and implementing targeted deterrents, you can reclaim your bird feeder for its rightful feathered visitors.

With clever solutions like weight-sensitive feeders, pepper spray repellents, and strategic placement away from trees and bushes, you can outsmart those clever squirrels. Safely keeping squirrels off your bird feeder helps ensure birds in your area have access to the food sources they depend on!

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