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Troubleshooting Bird Feeding Issues

Suet Feeder

Here are a few tips for dealing with some common problems.



If you are having problems with squirrels enjoying your feeders a little too much, you can try the following.

  • Purchase a squirrel proof feeder. Many designs are available, include feeders in wire cages, feeders with spring loaded arms that close under the weight of a squirrel and spinning feeders that dislodge the squirrel.
  • Use a barrier above or below the feeder. There are several effective designs. You will need to place your feeder over 8 feet away from the nearest tree or building edge. Squirrels are Olympic Champion jumpers.
  • Establish a squirrel feeder. Some people have luck feeding dried corn still on the cob. The corn is fairly inexpensive and the squirrels fill up on the corn instead of sunflower.



Outside cats kill millions of native birds each year. If a cat is frequently your yard, you can try the following.

  • Ask the owner to keep the cat from your yard. Visit the Cats Indoors web site of the American Bird Conservancy for literature and information.
  • Use the garden hose to spray water on the cat.
  • Fill a metal can with cans, making a very loud rattle. Shake the can each time you see the cat.


Germinating seeds under the feeder

If your feeders are heavily used, dropped seeds may eventually germinate.

  • Rake the area under the feeders regularly.
  • Use a seed tray under the feeder to capture the dropped seeds and hulls.
  • Place pavestones under the feeders, they can be very attractive.


House Sparrows and starlings eating too much seed

European Starling

  • Feed suet in an upside down feeder
  • Shorten or remove perches on tube feeders.
  • Use a tube feeder in a wire cage. This usually eliminates starlings, grackles and reduces visits by House Sparrows and cowbirds.
  • Some dome feeder designs can be adjusted to exclude larger species.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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