I have a lot of bird feeders. Each new season brings changes to the bird dynamics in the yard so I tend to do some tweaking of feeders or their placement each season. During warmer months, birds have a wider variety of natural foods available so, while they still eat birdseed, they don’t go through as much of it. Now that fall has arrived, birdseed consumption will soon be picking up. I want to see if I can reduce the amount of seed winding up in squirrel bellies this winter, so I made another change in my set-up. This time, it involves turning a ground platform feeder into a platform feeder on top of a pole.
When you feed birds in a big way year-round like I do, you find that there is no perfect year-round arrangement of bird feeders because the bird population in the yard is not stagnant. Some birds seem to stick around with a fairly predictable daily schedule. Others are only here for a season and then migrate out again. Some stop by for a day or two and move on. And yet more discover the bird feeder buffet and become new regulars. Some changes in the bird population don’t make a big impact, while others change the whole dynamic of the yard and I find myself moving feeders around again to find the perfect setup for the new situation.
If you put out food for birds, you are almost guaranteed to have other critters come to eat too. In my yard, this means a slew of squirrels and a huge groundhog (although I haven’t seen the groundhog this year, so I’m hopeful it has moved!) The squirrels cause me all kinds of grief, but to put it in perspective, at least I don’t have raccoons or bears carrying off the feeders entirely!
Keeping squirrels from dominating the bird feeders and eating a large portion of the food has been a continuous challenge. I’ve experimented with different types of seed, different types of feeders and different ways of protecting the seed and feeders from the squirrels. I’ve had some luck, but my yard still isn’t squirrel free. So for the past six months or so I’ve been experimenting with a different approach to keeping squirrels out of the feeders: feeding them!
Location, Location, Location. This is as true when it comes to bird feeders as it is to the restaurants we humans like to visit. You can have a really great, well-designed bird feeder with fresh appealing food in it and get no or very few birds if the location is wrong. I’ve found that finding the right spot can make all the difference. Here is what I’ve learned about where to place suet feeders. It may just give you some ideas on where to place your own!
I’ve got a lot of bird feeders up in the yard which attract a lot of birds. These birds attract hawks of various kinds. In the past year, we’ve seen Red-Shouldered Hawks, Red-Tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-Shined Hawks in the yard. Lately though, what we see most are Cooper’s Hawks.
If you made me pick one bird feeder for my yard, I think I’d have to go with Brome’s Squirrel Buster Plus. It is a feeder that takes a lot of stress out of bird feeding. As the name tells you, the Squirrel Buster Plus is a bird feeder designed to defeat squirrels that want to pilfer the seed that you put out for the birds. There are many feeders that try to do this, but in my experience, this is one feeder that actually succeeds. Even if a squirrel gets on this feeder, he doesn’t do more than slide around on it or dangle. He doesn’t get to eat from it. After a few unsuccessful tries, they generally leave it alone.
Over the summer I thought I had come to terms with the squirrels in my yard. During these warm months they would come to the feeders for maybe an hour or so in the morning and then only occasionally during the rest of the day. The birds got plenty of feeder time so I didn’t begrudge the squirrels a little food.
But once the acorn crop was finished in the fall, the squirrel activity changed. The squirrels started hunkering down on various feeders, one squirrel per feeder, for hours. Chase them away and they come right back. In most cases, squirrels are the top of the backyard critter hierarchy, so the birds were being crowded out.
The hanging platform feeder in particular had been taken over by the squirrels when it hung in a tree with a dome type baffle above it. The only way to keep them out of it was to switch over to filling it with safflower seed instead of sunflower hearts, although if a squirrel is hungry enough they’ll eat that too! What to do?