Throughout time, Man and Squirrel have uneasily co-existed in a Hegelian dialectic battle for supremacy in controlling access to bird feeders. It is a noble struggle for both creatures, thesis and antithesis, with the fortunes of the birds hanging in the balance.
We first got serious about feeding the birds about 10 years ago when we hung a basic bird feeder from a shepherd’s hook near the picture window at the back of our first home in Lawrence Township. Not long after, the squirrels showed up and began chomping down the bird seed seemingly faster than we could refill the feeder.
We enjoyed the antics of these long-tailed rodents as they leaped and stretched and contorted themselves into position to gulp a few grams of seed while the birds kept their distance. Seen from a Marxist perspective, these antics showed the squirrels as the rapacious bourgeoisie oppressing the proletariat of sparrows and cardinals.
Revolutionary solutions were needed.
We discovered a bird feeder called the Yankee Flipper from the Droll Yankee company, and for many months we were satisfied with the results. The “Flipper” has a battery-operated motor that spins the perch, flinging the squirrels off. With the battery fully charged, the squirrels got quite a ride, to our great amusement. They always seemed to land on their feet.
But a couple of times the squirrels got a foot lodged in the perch and were spun around and around for several dizzying seconds before being sent off. We watched guiltily as, if drunk, they stumbled off into the bushes.
The feeder battery eventually wore out, and the replacement we ordered was expensive and never worked as well as the original.
Time for a paradigm shift.
Five years ago, we switched to the Squirrel Buster Plus from Brome Bird Care, and it has proved a fantastic solution. The Squirrel Buster is a tube feeder with a perch suspended from a long spring inside the tube. When squirrels pop onto the perch, it drops under their weight, cutting off access to the feeding ports.
The tension on the spring is adjustable, and it takes a few days to get the calibration right. I bought a new Squirrel Buster a few weeks ago when the perch broke on our first one, and it took several days before I found the sweet spot at which the birds have full access and the squirrels have none.
Eventually, the squirrels give up and don’t even climb the pole. Occasionally some new squirrel will show up and try, but it, too, will get the message and content itself with picking among the morsels on the ground. The spring mechanism also thwarts grackles and other large birds who try to horn in on what we set out for the songbirds.
The Squirrel Buster has a large capacity, and I only need to refill it about once a week, although that schedule will vary with the seasons. The feeder is durable, as evidenced by the five years we had with the first one before the perch wore out.
A bonus: great customer service
When the new Squirrel Buster arrived, the packaging included notice that Brome has a lifetime guarantee with a promise to replace any needed parts. If I knew that when I got the first feeder, I’d forgotten.
I called Brome customer service and, just as promised, someone answered the phone and arranged to ship me a new perch free of charge. It showed up a few days later.
While the new feeder is taking care of the chickadees and thwarting the squirrels, I’ve yet to remount the old feeder. I’m going need another shepherd’s hook and I also have to call Brome for another replacement part.
I’d left the original feeder on the patio, and some critter gnawed a chunk off one of the plastic parts of the spring mechanism.
Comrades, I suspect a rampaging capitalist squirrel did the damage.