How to Keep Birds and Squirrels HappyPosted: September 16, 2021
Birds and squirrels don’t have to be enemies in the same yard, even when a bird may chase a squirrel or a squirrel may raid a bird feeder. If you have both birds and squirrels in your yard, you can easily keep everyone safe, happy, and friendly.
Why You Want Both Birds and Squirrels in Your Yard
Both birds and squirrels are great wildlife that can be entertaining to watch in your yard, and they can get along better than many people realize. Birds and squirrels may alert one another to different food sources, and often use the same types of nesting material – even raiding one another’s nests for extra material occasionally. Birds and squirrels listen to each other for warnings and predator alarms, keeping every creature in the yard safe. If you have both types of animals in your yard, you are fortunate to have healthy, supportive habitat that will encourage better wildlife diversity.
Keeping Birds and Squirrels Happy
It is a common misconception that birds and squirrels can’t get along, and that having one in your yard is better or worse than having another. You only need to meet the needs of both birds and squirrels to encourage each one to visit your yard, and it’s easy to do so in ways so the animals peacefully coexist rather than compete with one another.
- Food for Birds and Squirrels Both birds and squirrels eat similar seeds, nuts, fruits, cracked corn, and other common wildlife feeds. Squirrels, however, are larger and may frighten birds away from feeders, and squirrels can easily chew on feeders to access seed. To keep squirrels away from bird feeders, install baffles the squirrels can’t bypass, and use smaller feeders that are better suited to small birds. At the same time, create a squirrel feeding station with larger feeders and squirrel-friendly foods, such as corn, sunflower seed, and nuts. The squirrels will happily take the easiest route for their next meal, letting birds feed in peace. Squirrels will also help clean up underneath bird feeders, gobbling spilled seed before it can spoil and rot, which could be hazardous to both birds and squirrels.
- Water Sources for Backyard Wildlife Both birds and squirrels need fresh, clean water to drink, and both will easily visit ground level or elevated pedestal bird baths and basins. Providing several water sources at different heights in your yard will ensure plentiful water for every thirsty creature, and be sure the baths are cleaned regularly to minimize algae, insect larvae, and other contaminants. Birds will also bathe in shallow basins, but squirrels do not typically submerge in water. If you want to provide a water source just for birds, consider a hanging bath or waterer without an open basin that smaller birds can easily reach but squirrels will not be interested in.
- Sheltering Birds and Squirrels Both birds and squirrels require shelter from harsh weather and to use as an escape from predators. Thick, mature landscaping, especially large trees and shrubs, are ideal for both. Leaving hollow trees and snags intact will provide additional shelter, and birds and squirrels may also seek refuge in brush piles or woodpiles, beneath decks, or in other cozy spots.
- Bird and Squirrel Nesting Sites Squirrel nests are larger and messier than bird nests, but both animals use a variety of sticks, twigs, leaves, pine needles, grass clippings, and other materials to build their nests. Squirrels may take over nesting boxes meant for birds, however, so it is wise to use baffles around the houses or install metal guards on entrance holes so a squirrel cannot chew a larger entrance to get into a house. Putting up a larger, more spacious squirrel house is another way to give squirrels their own space so birds can use other nesting sites.
Don’t Be Too Welcoming
Even as you take steps to encourage both birds and squirrels in your yard, it is important not to be too welcoming. Too much food, for example, may spoil and rot, or could attract other, less welcome wildlife such as skunks, rats, or bears. Instead, put out just enough food that will be eaten in a day or two before bird feeders need to be refilled and squirrel feeding areas restocked.
Similarly, take steps to keep both birds and squirrels out of inappropriate shelter and nesting sites. Woodpeckers, starlings, sparrows, and other cavity-nesting birds may try to get into an attic or nest under eaves, in drainpipes, or in similar spaces, while some birds may nest on light fixtures or in lawn equipment. Squirrels, on the other hand, may nestle into soffit or squeeze into attics and their nests can be messy and destructive. Block such access points firmly to keep unwanted guests out of the house and in the yard where they belong.
Birds and squirrels can be very engaging, entertaining guests in the yard, and with simple steps, you can be sure each one has good resources for a safe, happy visit. The more you welcome them in your yard, the more you will enjoy all the energy and vitality both birds and squirrels can bring to your own patch of habitat.