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1 October 2020

Squirrel-proof bird feeders

Find the best bird feeder that will attract birds while also distracting the attention of determined squirrels
Squirrel-and-bird
JH
Jade Harding

Feeding birds remains a popular pastime, with many gardeners topping up bird feeders all throughout the year.

But it’s not just the birds that love the food; squirrels will also want to raid the bird feeder and often break them in the process.

Bird feeders designed to keep out squirrels either enclose the feed tube in a cage with bars spaced to allow small birds in and keep squirrels out or use springs to close off access to the food when something the weight of a squirrel lands on the feeder, yet allow the lighter birds to feed.

We tested 12 squirrel-proof bird feeders – find out the results in the table below.  

Best squirrel-proof bird feeders

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
82%

Expensive, but effective

This was a Best Buy in our previous trial and it’s still the pick of the bunch. It’s a sturdy bird feeder that was popular with birds and received more than 250 visits from five species, including many types of finch as well as various tits, robin, house sparrow and nuthatch. Squirrels made two attempts to access the bird food, but both failed as their weight closed the feed port. 

A useful feature of this weight-activated mechanism is that it can also be adjusted to stop larger birds feeding from it. The feeder was easy to set up and clean, but a bit fiddly to fill. This is a large feeder that can hold a lot of food, but this may restrict where it can be hung. 

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
65%

Budget option

This has a very robust and spacious cage design with an integral tray. More than 200 bird visits were recorded and four species were observed, mostly tits, but also robins. This feeder is easy to set up and fill, and being able to remove the feeder tube to clean it was also a good feature. No squirrels were observed attacking this feeder during the test, so we can’t be 100% sure it’s squirrel proof. However, the strong cage makes it unlikely that any squirrel could have squeezed through to gnaw at the central tube to access the bird feed. It’s an easy-to-use budget bird feeder that attracts different types of tit. 

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
63%

Attractive to birds

This elegant feeder was very attractive to birds and received 280 visits from at least four species, including tits, robin, nuthatch and several finches. It was easy to set up and fill as the food reservoir was large, and the food flowed freely. The one downside was that it was tricky to clean. It’s designed to keep squirrels away from the food via a weight-activated mechanism, but we weren’t able to see this in action. However, the mechanism is similar to our best-scoring Best Buy product, so we think it was just very successful at keeping squirrels out. 

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
58%

This bird feeder attracted a 126 visits from five different species of birds, including the great tit, blue tit, bullfinch, greenfinch and chaffinch. It’s designed to keep squirrels away from the food via a weight-activated mechanism, but we weren’t able to see this in action. One potential issue is the plastic lid – which could be prone to squirrel damage.  

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
54%

A variety of birds liked this feeder, including robins, great tits, blue tits and dunnocks, but they didn’t come in great numbers. It used a cage design and during testing there was no squirrel activity observed. 

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
52%

This easy-to-use bird feeder uses a robust and spacious cage design to deter squirrels. Although we didn’t get to observe any squirrel activity, it was super easy to fill thanks to the integral funnel and when it comes to cleaning it comes apart without much hassle. 

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
51%

With reasonable bird appeal and a sturdy cage design, this bird feeder is not the worst choice. But if you want something that’s easy to fill, it’s not for you.  

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
50%

This lightweight feeder will definitely bring some brightness to your garden, but it might not bring the birds – only 18 birds visited the feeder during our tests. No squirrel activity was observed, either.  

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
50%

This cage feeder had a reasonable bird appeal and was relatively easy to detach and clean. But filling it up was quite tricky and might put some people off.  

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
45%

This feeder sports a spacious cage design and offers perches designed for birds of different sizes. The integral funnel means it’s easy to fill, however during our tests the lid was found on the floor under the feeder and all the food had gone.  

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
42%

This feeder might be easy to fill and clean, but the birds didn’t love it, and during our testing a squirrel sat on the feeder and ate from the base tray for five to 10 minutes.   

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Bird feeder Bird appeal Squirrel proof Ease of refilling Ease of cleaning Overall ease of use Overall score
39%

This was one of three bird feeders that squirrels attempted to raid and the only one that was damaged as a result. The lower feeding port was chewed through, which releaed the seed and meant it could no longer be used as a bird feeder. This lightweight caged design had 78 bird visits from four species, including tits, robin and house sparrow. 

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Table notes

The more stars the better. Our prices are based on purchase prices in summer 2017 from garden centres or online from major suppliers and may vary, depending on the retailer. Score based on effectiveness against squirrels (50%), bird appeal (30%) and ease of use (20%).

Everything you need to know about squirrels

The grey squirrel was introduced into the UK from North America in the 19th century and it displaced the smaller native red squirrel, which is now only found in a few isolated areas. 

The natural diet of a grey squirrel consists of nuts, seeds and fruits, although they also eat bird eggs. They are at home in parks, woods, and gardens with trees and shrubs.

Raiding bird tables for food has become common behaviour. Their antics can be amusing as they’re very agile and determined, but they can get through vast quantities of seed and scare off garden birds, sometimes damaging the feeders, too.

Red squirrels are a protected species and it’s estimated that there are only 140,000 left in Britain, with just 15,000 left in England.

Grey squirrels have a population of more than 2.5 million. They are sometimes controlled in commercial forestry and to keep them out of areas where red squirrels still thrive.

It’s legal to control grey squirrels at home, but it’s best done by a pest-control company. It’s illegal to release trapped squirrels.

If you want to keep the squirrels in your garden fed but don't want to be overrun with weeds, here's our best no-grow bird seed

Why Which? squirrel-proof bird feeder reviews are better

Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies, so you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about a product.

We selected 12 different bird feeders, designed for holding seed that also claimed to keep out squirrels. We put up each bird feeder in a rural garden in the West Midlands for three weeks in winter.

  • Twice a week, we recorded the bird species that visited each feeder and the total number of individual bird visits. Each week the feeders were moved to another location in the garden.
  • A note was kept of any attempts by squirrels to feed and if they were successful.

There wasn’t as much squirrel activity as anticipated at the first site, so we tried another rural garden and a woodland nature reserve. Despite lots of squirrels observed feeding on spilt bird seed on the ground, we saw squirrels attempt to gain access to only three bird feeders. This could mean they tried and failed with the other feeders or that they were targeting the feeders they thought were easier to access. We’ve assumed that any feeder that wasn’t broken into or used by the squirrels was at least investigated by them for access, so we haven’t marked them down.

We also tested them for:

  • Seed capacity – the amount of seed the feeder could hold and how often it needed refilling.
  • Ease of use – how simple it was to assemble and fill up the feeder, and how easy it was to clean.

Gardening tool and accessory reviews - find out what else we test. 

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