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Birding Watching:  Feeders, houses, attracting, and more!

The Backyard Birder, Part IV

Editor's Note: This is the fourth article in a four-part series on the basics of attracting, feeding, and sheltering birds.

Part I
Part II
Part III

A well-appointed backyard, especially one with feeders filled to the brim with delicious seeds, will attract more than just jays, finches, and other hungry birds. It will also likely become a favorite haunt for squirrels. And while some people prefer to leave the squirrels alone these critters can be rather entertaining in their own amusing way it is possible to limit their impact.

For starters, consider attaching squirrel baffles to your feeders. Many pole and hanging bird feeders come equipped with these devices, which prevent squirrels from ever getting to the seeds. The squirrels will still try, of course, so be prepared for some spilled seed and squirrel antics.

As for the seeds on platform feeders, it's almost impossible to protect them from squirrels. Your choice, then, is to share the seeds with squirrels or eliminate such feeders, and the latter seems like a drastic measure just to show some squirrels a lesson.

One place few squirrels will ever venture for seeds is to a human hand. Birds, however, can be taught to eat right out of your palm. First, fill the inside of a glove with shredded paper or some other filler and place it at one of your feeding stations with sunflower seeds in the palm. Next, sit down near, though not beside, the feeder. Bring along a book and relax. No snacks, no music just you and the birds. Before long, chickadees, titmice, nuthaches, sparrows, and finches should adapt to both you and the glove. If they don't, move a little farther from the feeder.

The next step is for you to wear the glove and hold it as steady as possible. If you're patient, the same birds that fed from the stuffed glove should eat from the glove while you're wearing it. And once they start eating from your gloved hand, it's relatively easy to make the leap to a bare hand. The one thing to remember throughout this exercise is that you should never try to catch a bird that's trusting enough to land on your outstretched hand.