For decades mankind has been baffled by a smallish, gray, furry and unquestionably cute creature. Oh, they have come to know all sorts of technical information about the rodent. Structural makeup, strength of limbs and muscles. Living habits, eating habits, etc.
But what baffles so many scientists and common folk alike is just exactly what goes on in that tiny little brain that gives them the edge over inventions meant to thwart their upward and outward trek towards contents of birdfeeders.
Yes, we’re talking squirrels; those intrepid backyard animals that make feeding the birds a challenge par none. The extent to which writers over the years have went to document the cuteness of these creatures can be seen in a simple count of the Clark County website catalog of books. Over 200 books line the juvenile book shelves. There are series such as Those Darn Squirrels and Scaredy Squirrel. Four titles are simply Squirrel. There are titles that hint of what a squirrel can do such as Frisky, brisky, hippity-Hop and Aw, Nuts.
In the story books, all squirrels are named. Mick, Mack and Molly play together while Bob and Rob have their own adventures. Then there are Mario and Isabelle and Merle. One of the older squirrels of course is Squirrel Nutkin from author Beatrix Potter. Yes, there is much to read about those little furry bundles of energy.
On the other hand, only one book shows up in the adult reading section on how to cope with, nay outwit, the resident squirrel. Actually, we should use the plural because if there is one there is more than one. Our backyard and adjoining trees are home to five. But we have them baffled when it comes to our large bird feeder. More on that in a minute.
It seems that at least one man has had the courage not only to investigate and experiment but also to document his findings, failures and all. Bill Adler Jr. wrote Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels. The title says it all. The 101 list is in the back of the book, but we recommend you read the whole thing. It is truly an eye-opener into the world of squirrels. And for the most part, the entire world around your birdfeeder. Written in 1988, the book is in its 3rd edition so that tells you, it’s a must read for anyone thinking of feeding birds.
There are two other books available for research on this furry subject. North American Tree Squirrels by Michael Steele and John Koprowski is a comprehensive volume, including a few black/white photos and lots of charts and grafts. Probably the most pertinent one for our bird feeding endeavors is Table 9.1-Vocalizations of adult squirrels. We can now determine when the hawk is nearby, although we pretty much can figure it out by how fast the birds scatter. The squirrel’s buzz or ‘kuk’ sound is just the fire alarm after-the-fact.
Squirrels-The Animal Answer Guide, by Richard Thorington Jr. and Katie Ferrell is the newer book. It covers the same ground as Steele/Koprowski’s book except for two unique chapters. Skipping right to chapter 9-Squirrel Problems from a human viewpoint and then chapter 10-Human Problems from a squirrel’s viewpoint, we found quotes and information from Bill Adler Jr.’s book, Outwitting Squirrels. So we were back to where we began.
Squirrel-proof feeders are addressed in length in Adler’s book. Brands such as GSP Feeder, Steel Squirrel-Proof Feeder, The Hylarious Fortress Post feeder, Cling-a-Wing and Spinning Satellite and others are tested, summarized and rated.
Locally, most stores that stock birdseed also sell feeders, some of which are supposed to thwart squirrels. Just recently a local chain advertised Squirrel B Gone feeders and Squirrel Stumper Bird feeders. Costs can swing as wildly as a squirrel trying to hang to those feeders-a few dollars to over twenty.
Sometimes a book can be worth its weight in energy and monetary savings. Taking note of Adler’s experiments and measurements and predicaments, we have a squirrel-proof feeder, to the delight of dozens of bird species and their human benefactors.
The feeder’s support post is an 8-foot long, treated wood 4x4 post, two feet of which is sunk in the ground. So ground level to the bottom of the feeder is 6 feet. At the top of that six feet is an open-sided, roofed, platform feeder. Attached under that feeder is a 2-foot section of galvanized steel stove pipe. Just two screws hold it in place.
Squirrels have tried to climb it only to slide down. They have tried tunneling up under it only to back out, as it closes in closer to the top. Only once has any squirrel tried climbing the wood, then leaping for the feeder. Unhurt, they thudded to the ground.
The feeder is placed away from any trees or bushes. The closest is ten feet away. And yes, the squirrels do climb those junipers, walk out to the very edge of the longest limbs and get ready to jump. But a squirrel’s distance perception is remarkable and calculating that the ten feet from where they stand to the feeder is more than they can high-dive, they are resolved to eat under the feeder and hope for a bunch of squabbling birds to shift seeds over the edge.
So far we haven’t named our squirrels, but we admit to (on occasion) adding to their sustenance a few peanuts or cereal/peanut butter nuggets. After all, they are furry and cute.