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.
This is a hanging tube type feeder. The tube is clear, heavy duty plastic, while the rest of it is metal. The seed ports are at the bottom of the feeder and are protected by a metal shroud. The metal top is sloped and slippery so a squirrel can’t hang from the top to get into the seed ports.
If something heavy, like a squirrel, puts its weight on the perches attached to the shroud, that weight pulls the metal shroud down, completely covering the port holes. The squirrel can’t get in.
This feeder’s design means that you can hang it from a tree branch or on an arm attached to your house or deck and it doesn’t matter. As long as you allow at least eighteen inches space around the feeder from anything the squirrel might hang from to access the feeder without putting weight on it, the squirrel is locked out. You don’t need to use a baffle, although I did decide to add a baffle to mine. The company even guarantees the feeder and will fix any non-cosmetic structural squirrel damage. (Note: The company does not guarantee it for raccoons, which makes sense as a raccoon’s method is often to take the feeder down and make off with it rather than to dangle on it to eat.)
The Squirrel Buster Plus holds three quarts of seed. How long this lasts will vary by how many birds you have eating from it. I have a lot of birds in my yard and two of these feeders, both filled with sunflower hearts, as well as several other types of feeders. I typically fill these two feeders every three to five days, and sometimes more often during snowy or cold weather when the birds are eating more.
To fill the feeder, you take it down from where you have it hanging, press down on the top slightly and twist and lift up the metal top, which pivots off, still attached by the hook. Then simply pour in the birdseed. I store my seed in the house, so I usually fill up a large pitcher with seed which I bring outside to pour into the feeder. Once full, close up the top and hang it again. It’s quick and easy.
This feeder is designed to circulate air so that the seed is less likely to get damp and moldy. The only real point for moisture to get into it is the seed ports. Heavy rain or snow can drive moisture into the open ports where it can gunk up the seed right near the openings. I check the feeder for this after bad weather. Often you can just give it a shake to get a few bits of damp seed out and you are good to go. Other times you need to take the feeder down and give it a cleaning.
All feeders should be cleaned every few weeks (or more often as needed.) This feeder can be taken apart and cleaned in the top rack of a dishwasher if you like. I don’t have a dishwasher, so I clean it in the kitchen sink. The first couple times you take it apart, you might find it a bit daunting as there are several pieces that attach together in different ways. But the feeder comes with clear illustrated instructions on how it comes apart and goes back together. (They are also available on their website if you lose them. And there is a video there as well.)
Follow along with the instructions the first time or two and you’ll get the hang of it; it really is not hard. It’s actually very nice that you can take the whole thing apart. It makes cleaning it, even when you have to do it by hand in the sink, very easy. Take it apart, clean all the parts, dry the parts, put it back together, refill it and hang it up.
The Squirrel Buster Plus has several features that you can adjust to customize it for your needs. First, you can adjust the length of the perches by loosening a wing-nut at the bottom of the feeder and twisting the perches to make them shorter or longer. (Then hand-tighten the wing-nut again to secure the perches.) If you make the perches shorter, it makes the feeder less welcoming for larger birds. Extend the perches out farther to make it easier for larger birds to sit.
There is also an optional Cardinal Ring. This is a heavy plastic ring that comes in two half-circles. You attach the pieces over the spoke-like perches to create a ring perch that circles the feeder, allowing birds to face the ports instead of having to sit sideways. Cardinals find this position easier to use, which is why they call it a Cardinal Ring.
I originally had this ring on my feeders but didn’t get much Cardinal action. I think the reason is that I also have quite a few other feeders that Cardinals like better: platform feeders and hopper type feeders. I suspect that if this was the only type of feeder I had, they would definitely use it. This winter, when the Red-Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and European Starlings arrived in mass in the yard and made pests of themselves, I took the Cardinal Ring off to make it harder for them to use these feeders. Since the Cardinals don’t use these feeders often, they didn’t care.
You can also adjust the weight needed to close the feeder ports. There is a long column running down the middle of the feeder tube that controls the spring closing mechanism. When purchased, it is by default set to be a good weight for most birds that people prefer to feed, while still excluding most squirrels. The company suggests trying out that setting before adjusting it.
If you want to adjust the feeder so that more weight is needed to close the ports (allowing larger birds) you twist the central column clockwise so that the red marker line goes lower on the column. If you want to adjust the feeder so that less weight is needed to close the ports (excluding larger birds), then you twist the central column counter-clockwise, moving the red marker line up.
The feeder comes with a chart of typical weights for common birds to give you an idea of how to set the closing mechanism, but it isn’t clear how to set the mechanism to a very specific weight; there are line markings on the column but no numbers. I just try a setting, watch how it is working for the birds and then adjust as needed. Right now in the winter months, I’ve adjusted my two feeders up so that larger birds like Grackles will trigger the weight so that it is exclusively used by smaller birds.
The adjustment means making choices. For example, the chart tells me that the average weight of a Northern Cardinal and a Red-Winged Blackbird is the same. So if I adjust the weight to exclude one, I also exclude the other. I tend to get flocks of Red-Winged Blackbirds in the winter when the weather is bad, but not as often in the spring, so I will probably adjust it back down in the spring.
These feeders have been very popular in my yard and are almost always in use during daylight hours. The most common visitors are House Finches, American Goldfinches, Tufted Titmouses, Carolina Chickadees and the occasional Carolina Wren or Pine Siskin. I like that in general, this is a feeder where smaller birds won’t be shunted aside by the larger. I’ve also seen the occasional Northern Cardinal use it and even a Red-Bellied Woodpecker who can dangle off the Cardinal Ring to use the feeder at the default setting. It can also get Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Red-Winged Blackbirds, European Starlings and Common Grackles, depending on how it is adjusted. Every now and then I’ll see a Dark-Sided Junco or a House Sparrow use this feeder but only rarely as they really prefer to eat on the ground.
This feeder is not inexpensive, but I have saved much more than its cost in birdseed that doesn’t go into a squirrel’s belly. I really feel that it was a good investment. It is sturdy, well-made, guaranteed and works as advertised. It keeps the squirrels out and that keeps my stress level down too. I bought one of these feeders last spring and was so pleased with it that I bought a second a few months later. I’d definitely buy it again if I needed another.
You may be able to find this feeder at local stores. I found that it is usually a bit less expensive on Amazon, particularly with free Amazon Prime shipping (Brome Bird Feeders on Amazon) so you might want to check there to compare.
Enjoy feeding the birds in your yard!
Note: When you purchase something from Amazon using a link from my blog, they give me a tiny fee for the referral that helps offset blog costs just a little.