GUESTS AT THE BIRDFEEDER
Once you get your bird feeding station
up and running, you may run into problems with uninvited
guests. These visitors fall into two categories -- those
interested in the seeds (squirrels and chipmunks, rats and
mice, starlings and house sparrows), and those interested in a
bird for dinner (cats and hawks).
If you have trees, you will get to know
squirrels. You may marvel at their antics, until they take
over your bird feeders. Then you'll either love them or hate
Those who love squirrels tolerate their
visits, and may even encourage them with special squirrel toys
When a squirrel is at the feeder,
you're not likely to see birds. Squirrels will scare off the
birds while they eat the seed, and sooner or later, they'll
eat the feeder too.
The simplest solution is the
squirrel-proof feeder or pole, and storing your seed in a
metal garbage can.
Chipmunks, rats and mice can also
become a problem where there's seed spillage under the feeder.
Don't use mixed bird seed, and if you don't have a squirrel
problem, add a feeder tray.
Crow, house sparrow and starling
problems can be eliminated by seed and feeder selection.
Cats are another story altogether.
Feral cats and your neighbor's tabby are a serious threat to
nestlings, fledglings and roosting birds. Too often, the
presence of just one cat on the prowl near your feeder can
take the enjoyment out of your backyard bird watching
When a cat sits drooling under your
feeder, you're not likely to see any birds. You're bound to
feel much worse when you find a pile of feathers on the
If your neighbor is reasonable, suggest
a bell collar. If that doesn't work, consider getting yourself
a pet -- a dog. Birds don't seem to be bothered by most dogs,
but cats and squirrels are.
If there are no cats in your
neighborhood and you find a pile of feathers near your feeder,
look for a hungry hawk perching on a tree nearby.
Don't get upset. Consider yourself
fortunate to see one, right in your backyard. Cooper's and
sharp-shinned hawks eat birds and play an important role in
the natural community.
Don't put out poisons, or try to trap
them, since all birds of prey -- eagles, owls and hawks -- are
protected by Federal law.