They are furry, cute and have shiny big eyes – however, squirrels are the animals every bird-feeding gardener loves to hate. There is hardly a so-called squirrel proof feeding station that the tenacious rodent cannot outsmart. They climb, jump, wriggle and writhe around every obstacle that comes between them and the desired nuts and seeds. And they consume endless amounts of what is considered food for birds. The British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have now published their own piece of advice on the matter. No expensive special feeders, mesh wire protection cages or refined mechanisms are required. Just a bit of chilli powder does the trick.
Birds Tolerate the Chilli that Squirrels Dislike
RSBP wildlife adviser Lloyd Scott calls it a cheap, easy and effective solution – more effective than erecting barriers, which the clever animals work their way around eventually in most cases. Putting chilli powder on bird seeds and nuts does not seem to have any negative effect on the birds, says Scott. But the ever hungry squirrel would not eat the spicy mix.
Not only chilli powder works magic against squirrels – according to the RSPB curry powder, cayenne pepper or tabasco or peri-peri sauce can also be used. As long as it's spicy hot, it keeps the pest at bay. To apply the spice, it is easiest to put the bird food into a plastic bag, sprinkle a generous amount of spice into it as well and shake the bag thoroughly. It is important that the seeds are well coated with the spice, but they should not be hidden or completely covered by it. It is certainly worth a try!
Grey Squirrels in Great Britain
Grey squirrels are not native to Great Britain. They were imported from the vast American woodlands in the 19th century as a decorative addition to English parks and landscapes. The grey squirrels adapted easily and spread fast. In many areas it has replaced the native red squirrel for decades. The success of the grey over the red squirrels has different reasons – for example, they are bigger and can digest a greater variety of food.
Meanwhile the grey squirrel has officially been classified as a pest in the UK, a view that many garden owners probably share, as the grey squirrels do a lot of damage besides raiding bird feeders. It even rips bark off some trees and eventually kills them. In order to control grey squirrels' numbers and to promote red squirrels, who survive in designated protection zones like in Scotland, schemes to cull grey squirrels have been implemented lately.