As summer arrives the variety of creatures—with wings or not—that visit your backyard bird feeder multiply tenfold. Sure, you put out the deluxe seed to feed the pretty cardinals and goldfinches, but now you've got all these uninvited guests.
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Furry acrobats: Squirrels are Enemy Number One for most backyard bird watchers. These clever creatures seem to defy all attempts at stopping them from raiding your seed. A whole industry has formed around finding the perfect squirrel proof feeder. You can get squirrel flippers, rollers, baffles and anti-squirrel cage feeders. Then sit back and watch the show.
Rats with wings: Pigeons. Sure they’re birds, but they aren’t very colorful and they tend to hog the feeder with their rather plump posteriors. The birding books say pigeons are "ground feeders", but give them a little time and they’ll figure out how to use any feeder with a large platform. You can keep these birds out of your seed with feeders designed to only feed small birds, like those with cages or weight sensitive perches.
Grackle attack: Blackbirds, grackles and starlings are also “undesirables” for a lot of backyard bird watchers. These annoying birds attack your feeder by the flock, cleaning you out in minutes and leaving nothing for the pretty song birds. You can dissuade these birds by using feeders designed for small birds or feeders that force birds to hang upside down (something chickadees and nuthatches do naturally). You can also switch your feed—grackles and blackbirds love corn and milo but seem to hate safflower seed.
Killer birds: Bird watchers have a love hate relationship with birds of prey. Hawks are beautiful birds that soar with grace and style. When they’re soaring, they’re actually hunting for lunch—and your backyard feeder chock full of song birds looks like a yummy patio cafe to a hawk. Keep your bird feeders off the hawk’s radar by placing it under cover—like your porch, an umbrella or even a dense tree limb. You can also help song birds survive a predator attack by providing them with nearby shrubs to hide in when hawks come prowling.
Not just a picnic pest: Ants can invade humming bird feeders, especially if the sweet syrup you’re feeding drips off to alert ants that a easy meal is available. Dripless feeders help prevent ants, as well as using an ant moat to drown the ants before they can drown in your feeder.
Bears. Thankfully, Missouri doesn’t have much of a problem with bears raiding bird feeders, but the Department of Natural Resources in Maryland asked rural residents to not hang bird feeders in the spring and summer to avoid attracting bears.
Zombies. If you see a bird with half its feather’s missing, you might think you’ve attracted a tiny winged zombie. Usually birds molt their feathers a few at a time, refreshing worn out feathers or dull winter colors with bright new feathers. But some birds are unlucky enough to lose whole patches of feathers, either due to mites or just a bad molt. So no, that’s not an undead zombie bird at your feeder, just an unlucky one.