4 Foods That Squirrels DO NOT Eat at Bird Feeders!
Is there anything that squirrels won’t eat?
Many people, including myself, have asked themselves this question! I know I’ve watched helplessly as squirrels have overtaken my bird feeders. Due to their large size, they keep the birds away, and my avian friends watch from a nearby perch as their food disappears into the belly of a squirrel.
Not to mention that squirrels have diverse and incredibly LARGE appetites. I’m sure you have noticed that bird food has gotten more expensive. It can be hard to justify the high price of bird seed when half of it goes to fattening up squirrels who leave very little for the birds to eat.
So to help control the amount of food squirrels consume, I made a list of four types that squirrels don’t normally eat at bird feeders. Please note that these rodents may try some of the foods below or eat them in small quantities. But for the most part, they shouldn’t spend hours and hours on your bird feeders if you use these foods.
#1. Safflower Seeds
Safflower seed has gotten the nickname the “miracle seed” because most songbirds will readily eat it, but the majority of squirrels will ignore it! Birds like cardinals, jays, chickadees, and many others have no problem eating safflower, but squirrels mostly don’t touch it.
Since I can’t ask them directly, I’m not exactly sure why squirrels don’t like safflower, but supposedly it has a bitter taste. Mammals tend to have a better-developed sense of taste than birds. I know that using safflower seeds sounds too good to be true, but it’s a great option to use in your feeders that are not squirrel-proof.
Give it a try and see if it works! It’s estimated that 90% of squirrels won’t eat safflower. My apologies if you have one of the super squirrels that eat safflower all day long with a smile on their face. 🙂
#2. Nyjer Seeds (thistle)
Nyjer seed, also called “thistle,” is a tiny, black seed. Luckily, it’s not actually related to thistle, so you don’t have to worry about uneaten seeds growing into an annoying weed. In fact, before it’s sold, Nyjer seeds are sterilized by heat so they can’t germinate and grow.
These small seeds are great for attracting goldfinches, finches, chickadees, and doves. But due to their tiny size, I have never seen a squirrel even attempt to eat one!
To use Nyjer seed, you will want to purchase a feeder that specializes in distributing it. Check out the article below for more information on these bird feeders.
#3. White Proso Millet
Millet is a favorite food among ground-feeding birds. It is generally not sold individually but is included in MANY types of birdseed mixes.
And while white millet attracts lots of birds that enjoy dining on the ground, like juncos, sparrows, blackbirds, and doves, it will not appeal to squirrels. Interestingly, millet is considered a grain, not a seed, and squirrels don’t bother eating this small, hard food.
A word of warning: Many birdseed mixes contain red proso millet, which is red and a bit smaller than white millet. Ground-feeding birds will eat red millet, but it’s not their favorite. So, if possible, I would avoid buying a mix that includes red millet.
#4. Any food coated with HOT PEPPER!
I have saved the best option for last! 🙂
Believe it or not, using birdseed coated with hot pepper is a great way to prevent squirrels from eating at your feeders! Seriously, this strategy works. When I use spicy food, squirrels (and other mammals) take one whiff and decide to look for food elsewhere.
And the best part is that birds have no problem eating hot pepper food!
The “heat” you feel in your mouth after eating a hot pepper is caused by a compound called capsaicin. We feel pain, discomfort, and burning after eating hot peppers because capsaicin messes with specific nerve endings in our mouth.
And here is the crazy thing:
Only MAMMALS are affected by capsaicin.
Birds don’t have much sense of taste or smell, so they are immune. As a result, they can eat hot pepper birdseed all day long and have no ill effects.
Just think about this fact for a second. The mammals that can cause problems at your feeding station include not only squirrels but also raccoons, chipmunks, rats, mice, and even bears! All these creatures have SUPER sensitive noses, so all it takes is one smell, and they should start looking for food elsewhere.
I tested whether hot pepper seeds worked at my feeders. You can watch below to see if it worked or not. 🙂
Check out my YouTube channel HERE!
And please don’t worry about the birds eating spicy food, as it’s safe. Products that contain capsaicin have been on the market for a long time. There are no reports of birders or ornithologists who have spoken about the adverse health consequences for birds.
So where can you buy hot pepper bird food?
In general, there are TWO ways to acquire hot pepper birdseed:
Option #1. Buy birdseed already coated or infused with capsaicin.
The easiest thing you can do is buy pre-made hot pepper birdseed. Just open the bag and fill your feeders!
While this is easy, it’s also relatively expensive. You are paying for convenience. Below is the hot pepper birdseed that I have used:
Coles Hot Pepper Sunflower Seeds:
- JCS Wildlife – Use code “BWHQ” to save 10% at checkout!
Option #2. Make your own hot pepper birdseed!
Preparing your own spicy food is more time-consuming, but it will save you money. I use the concentrated hot sauce pictured below and mix it with shelled sunflower seed.
Cole’s Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce
You must be careful using this stuff because it is hot and incredibly painful to get the concentrated solution on your face (speaking from experience). Here are three things I do that help keep the sauce on the seeds and OFF me. 🙂
- I have a 5-gallon bucket with a lid dedicated to mixing and storing my homemade hot pepper seed. It’s also individually marked, so nothing else ever goes into this bucket.
- Always use gloves!
- I have a dedicated thick wooden stake to mix the hot sauce into the seeds. The stake is kept in a special location, so I don’t accidentally touch it without gloves.
Before we end today, I want you to know that I actually do like squirrels, and they are welcome to eat at my bird feeding station.
But I want these acrobatic rodents to eat on the ground. I don’t want them sitting on my bird feeders, scaring away the birds. 🙂
You may even be able to watch squirrels eating right now BELOW my bird feeders. Check out the LIVE cameras that are streaming in my backyard HERE.
What foods do squirrels avoid in your yard?
If you have any other recommendations or comments, please leave one below!
Not sure what your set up is, but this works for me after trying many things. I use a metal feeder pole system that is pretty tall, which I bought at Wild birds unlimited. I was using a cheaper one from Home Depot or lowes, but it wasn’t very sturdy and ended up breaking. This one from WBU doesn’t bend or lean linke the other one. Anyway, I also bought their baffle that is shaped kind of like a torpedo and it also moves up and down. It needs to be positioned about 5’ off the ground. The location of your pole is very important- it has to be a certain distance from any squirrel launching point next to, above, or below ( fence, trees, etc)I can’t remember the exact distances, but you can look it up online. If you do this correctly, you don’t need to purchase squirrel proof feeders. As for the little birds, you can also get cages to put around your feeders with various sized openings. This will allow small birds in while preventing larger birds. I believe this bird Watching hq site has other resources/links to purchase sturdy poles/baffles, caged bird feeders and other information about pole placement. So I recommend you browse this awesome website for recommendations. There is a search function if you click on the 3 bars at the very top right side of this page. You can type in “feeder poles”, “ feeder pole systems” “baffles”, cages feeders, “feeder pole placement”, etc. I used to hand my feeders from tree branches, but soon learned that was ideal for my squirrels, lol! Good luck!
I have read that squirrels will scratch their eyes out from the pepper, I took it out of my feeders right away. I put a bowl out of whole peanuts, and some bird food for the squirrels. I also grease the pole with Vaseline, that seems to help, and provides some entertainment for us!
I see so many cardinals after mating this summer here, a suburb outside of Philadelphia …they look like they kiss as you may have seen when feeding. I took many videos of that.
They remind me of my son who died in 2018. They make me happy not much does but my various beautiful birds so many species. I’ll have to get something there for the squirrels they are taking over and the Blue Jays too. We have about 15! Good day everyone
This was in reply to Amrita the post down below 🙂 And I’m going to buy more Slinky’s ( the metal toy from my era lol) to wrap around the base of my Shepherd hooks to mid way up the pole. Worked for a while but you need more then one so I’ve found and the squirrels can still climb them but they did work. I get them on eBay. Off to order more now!
I found a way squirrels can’t get to my feeder. Below my bird feeder I have cut a hole in a pail put the pole throught this hole and duct tape around the pole inside the pail. squirrels climb up but can’t get to the feeder’ Problem taken care off. Feed off the ground now.
I agree w the other notes here. The red pepper does not help, and I noticed less birds when I used it – not sure why. I have just bought my fourth expensive squirrel proof feeder, hoping this one is the cure. I gave up for a while bc they destroyed everything – rip apart the feeders and make a mockery of everything – anyway I thought if I feed them, they will leave the bird stuff alone. I put out wild food and continued the high bird stuff in smaller quantities. they still rip up all the bird stuff, and now my bird area i filled w chipmunks, raccoons skunks, rabbits and big birds… I am Ok w that, but worry about the little birds in winter. I will try this new feeder and see what happnens. Offering them food doesn’t help. They literally tear apart everything I put out.
I have the same results, Michelle…argh!
Yes I think I must have Latino squirrels because they even eat ghost peppers
I am using black sunflower seeds. Would painting the sauce on the outside of the feeder or mixing powder in the seed work?
I will have to try the hot sauce you recommend. I’ve tried mixing hot red pepper powder and even pepper flakes and the squirrels still ate the seeds!
I put out only safflower seeds and then I throw handfuls of peanuts around the yard. All the squirrels in my yard gobble up the safflower seeds. Sigh. I have the fattest squirrels I have ever seen. The chipmunks love it, too, but that’s ok. I adore my little Chiplets. The most annoying is the Mourning Doves. They will sit and gorge while all the other birds stay off to the side, hoping for a bit. The doves are surprisingly aggressive and I have seen the males not allow their mates to eat. Cardinals love it. I had the pleasure of watching mine raise a baby boy this summer. He has just matured to his brilliant red plumage. Last year they had a daughter.
And yes, the cost of seed has gone through the roof, but feeding the critters is my passion.
Thank you for your interesting articles.