Best squirrel-proof bird feeders
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
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.
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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.