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Hands off my nuts!

Last modified: 20 July 2010

Grey squirrel feeding on a cake feeder

Vaseline, chilli and plastic bottles wouldn’t usually be associated with feeding garden birds.

But such household items could ensure that the intended wild visitors enjoy your hospitality.

It’s a busy time in the garden at the moment with all creatures great and small wanting food for themselves and their young.

But many people get frustrated when their birdfood is snapped up by the wrong wild visitor, and the RSPB is suggesting some safe and simple ways of deterring squirrels from bird feeders.

Grey squirrels are increasingly common garden visitors, attracted by the food people put out for birds.

While some people regard them with affection and even encourage them, others want to deter them.

Squirrels are acrobatic, ingenious and tenacious raiders of bird feeders, and keeping them off can be a difficult task. The best way to reserve food for birds is to use barriers that prevent squirrel access.

And whilst the wildlife charity advises that no deterrent is 100% effective in all situations, many can make a huge difference.

The RSPB suggests:

-       Fixing a squirrel baffle or cone to the pole of a bird table or feeder to prevent the animal climbing up the pole

-       Fixing a dome or disc of suitable size above a hanging feeder to prevent the animal climbing down it

-       Enclosing a feeder, bird table or ground feeding tray inside a wire cage

-       Smearing the pole of a bird table or feeder with Vaseline or other grease

-       Dusting birdfood with chilli powder or Tabasco sauce which will not affect birds but will discourage squirrels

-       If the feeder is hung from a washing line, thread the line through a length of hosepipe or a plastic coke bottle on each side

-       Placing tables and feeders somewhere central, ie not near to a fence or wall, so the squirrel can’t jump onto them from above. This would also reduce the risk of cats catching your garden birds

-       Leaving out a sacrificial amount of bird seed ie a small pot that is uncovered and easily accessed by squirrels so they don’t need to try and access your bird feeders so much

Squirrels eat seeds, buds, flowers, shoots, nuts, berries and fruit from many trees and shrubs. They also eat fungi and insects. Grey squirrels strip tree bark in spring and summer months and all squirrels store nuts in the ground during the autumn.

Squirrels are the most familiar of wild mammals in the British Isles as they are active in the daytime, and are commonly seen in town parks and gardens.

The RSPB’s Head of Wildlife Enquiries, Val Osborne, says: “Many people like seeing squirrels and are fascinated by their erratic movements and amusing behaviour.

“But we also get endless calls from frustrated gardeners who are fed up with seeing all their bird seed eaten by squirrels.

“To some extent I’m afraid we need to accept that they are quite creative and very determined and we will never be able to deter them completely. But the measures we suggest can make a difference and should at least reduce the problem.”

The RSPB sells a number of squirrel proof devices in its shops and online catalogue. For more information visit

For more information on squirrels visit

How you can help

If you want to help the birds twice over by knowing you’re feeding top quality foods and using products overseen by our experts, RSPB Bird Care is for you.

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