How do you keep squirrels out of hummingbird feeders?

Hummingbirds are a delight to watch as they buzz around your yard, sipping nectar from colorful feeders. However, these small birds must compete with squirrels, who are attracted to the sweet nectar too. Keeping squirrels away from hummingbird feeders can be a challenge, but there are some effective techniques to try.

Why Do Squirrels Try to Get into Hummingbird Feeders?

Squirrels have a strong sense of smell and are opportunistic feeders. They are drawn to the sugary scent of hummingbird nectar, which provides them with quick energy. Hummingbird feeders are also constructed with accessible feeding ports that squirrels can easily get their heads into.

In addition, squirrels tend to be more dominate than hummingbirds and will scare the smaller birds away from feeders. With their bushy tails and agile climbing skills, squirrels can access feeders in a variety of locations, from tree branches to deck railings.

Tips to Deter Squirrels

Use Feeder Placement Strategically

One of the easiest ways to deter squirrels is to place the hummingbird feeder in an open spot that is not accessible by jumping from trees, fences or other structures. Squirrels typically need to climb to reach a feeder, so keeping it away from launch points will minimize access.

Try hanging the feeder on a pulley system at least 5 feet from anything a squirrel can climb. You can also place it in the center of your yard on a tall metal pole with a sturdy hanging hook.

Choose Saucer-Style Feeders

The typical tube feeder with perpendicular feeding ports is easy for squirrels to grab onto and access the nectar. A saucer-style feeder with the nectar reservoir in the middle is harder for them to reach their heads into.

There are also flat dish styles that allow hummingbirds to sip while flying but don’t provide a feeding space for bushy-tailed squirrels. Look for ones with a protective mesh dome to further prevent access.

Try Moat-Style Feeders

Find a feeder designed with a water-filled moat between the nectar reservoir and feeding ports. The squirrel’s weight will cause it to sink into the water if they try to reach the nectar.

This allows hummingbirds to easily fly over the water barrier. The moving water can also deter squirrels from attempting to cross. Just be sure to change it regularly to prevent mosquito breeding.

Use Cage Protection

For tube-style feeders, look for ones enclosed in a wire cage. The cage has openings large enough for hummingbirds but too small for squirrels to squeeze through. Squirrels may still try to reach the nectar through the wire, causing the feeder to swing.

Placing it in an open area on a pulley system helps prevent this. Check that the cage wires are robust enough not to bend and create gaps under the squirrel’s weight.

Apply Slippery Substances

You can apply non-toxic slippery substances to feeder perches, hanging hooks and wire cages. This creates an unstable surface that deters squirrels from grabbing on. Try using cooking spray, petroleum jelly or grease on areas squirrels climb on.

Reapply frequently, as the slippery coating wears off over time. Avoid getting it on areas hummingbirds sit, as it can also make things tricky for them to perch.

Use Hot Pepper Solutions

Squirrels don’t like spicy tastes, so you can fill your moat-style feeder with hot pepper water instead of plain water. Use a hot pepper sauce or mix ground cayenne or chili powder into the water. Reapply after rain or every 2-3 days.

You can also find concentrated pepper gel products designed specifically to deter squirrels. Apply it onto feeder perches, hanging parts and poles that squirrels climb on.

Try Squirrel Feeder Blockers

Plastic and metal feeder collars are available that attach to tube feeders to block access. They prevent squirrels from being able to grasp the reservoirs or perch on feeding ports.

Look for adjustable collars that allow you to customize the fit as needed. Make sure it’s loose enough that hummingbirds can still easily access nectar.

Offer Separate Feeding Stations

Try distracting squirrels away from your hummingbird feeders by offering them an alternative food source. Set up corn, nuts or seed in specialized squirrel feeders.

Place these feeders at least 20 feet away from the hummingbird feeder spots to entice squirrels away.

Use Feeders with Perches

Some feeders are designed with separate perches rather than feeding ports. Nectar is accessed through small holes that squirrels can’t fit their muzzles into, but hummingbirds can use their long beaks.

Having a place for hummingbirds to comfortably perch also means they will likely spend more time at the feeder, making it harder for squirrels to access.

Apply Squirrel Predator Scent

The smell of certain squirrel predators can deter them from approaching feeders. Try placing hair clippings or used litter from cats around your feeders.

You can also find commercial predator urine products, such as coyote or fox urine. Apply it around poles, hooks and any areas squirrels climb to reach the feeder.

Tips for Discouraging Squirrels

Keep Nectar Freshened

Change the nectar frequently, at least once a week. Stale nectar will have a weaker scent that is less likely to attract as many squirrels.

Rinse feeders thoroughly before refilling them with fresh nectar. Keep them clean to prevent bacterial growth that can sicken hummingbirds.

Avoid Placement Near Trees

Even if your feeder is not directly within reach, squirrels can make incredible leaps from tree branches to access it. Avoid placing feeders within at least 10 feet of trees.

If you hang one from a tree branch, make sure it’s at least 5 feet away from the trunk and trim back any connecting branches squirrels could jump from.

Take Feeders Down at Night

Squirrels are most active in the early morning when hummingbirds are not feeding as frequently. Take feeders down each evening and replace them in the morning.

This prevents squirrels from causing damage overnight and provides fresh nectar for hummingbirds first thing.

Clean up Spills

Change the nectar before it empties completely. Sugary drips from drained feeders will attract pests.

If nectar does spill, wipe down feeder perches and hangers to remove any sticky residue squirrels can smell.

Make Feeders Move

Wind-related movement deters squirrels from trying to climb and access feeders. Choose hanging spots that allow them to twist and spin freely in the breeze.

Add hanging bits of foil or crystals near the feeder, so they glitter and sway in the wind. You can also attach a wind spinner above or near the feeder.

Apply Petroleum Jelly on Hanging Parts

Cover feeder hooks and wire cables with a thin layer of petroleum jelly. This makes it hard for squirrels to stabilize themselves while trying to reach nectar.

Avoid spreading it on any area hummingbirds sit on. Reapply it after several days as rain and wind will wash it away.

Larger-Scale Squirrel Deterrents

Install Quarter-Inch Wire Mesh

Wrap 1/4-inch wire mesh around trees and poles squirrels climb to access feeders. Ensure any structures the feeder hangs from are fully encased from top to bottom to block climbing access.

Bury the lower edge of the mesh 6 inches into the ground so squirrels can’t dig underneath. Mesh openings allow hummingbirds to reach nectar.

Apply Flexible Spirals

Deter squirrels from traveling on cables, poles and tree branches by installing flexible steel wire spirals designed for this purpose.

As squirrels pass through the springy coils, they are propelled away. Look for spiral sleeves sized for 1/2 to 5/8 inch diameter cables to inhibit squirrels without blocking hummingbirds.

Use Squirrel Baffles

Install plastic or metal baffles above feeders and along access routes like cables and poles. These discs physically block squirrels from being able to get on or around them.

Baffles should be at least 6 inches wide. Make sure the feeder hangs freely below the lowest baffle so hummingbirds have room to access it.

Apply Flexible Tubing

Wrap flexible plastic tubing or pipe insulation around any feeder hanging cables and poles. The surface is too slippery for squirrels to grasp but allows hummingbirds to fly past.

Use tubing at least 3 inches in diameter. Seal any longitudinal seams with tape and replace as the material degrades.

Install a Pulley System

Hang feeders from a pulley system with fishing line stretched high between two poles or hung from tree branches. Rig the line at least 10 feet high and keep it taut.

The feeder should hang 4 to 5 feet below the line so squirrels cannot jump to it. Having it on a pulley lets you easily lower it to refill the nectar.

Try Electric Deterrents

There are electric squirrel repellent devices that can be installed near feeders. These deliver a mild electric shock if a squirrel touches two points, giving them an unpleasant zap.

Look for solar-powered options to eliminate wiring. Place them onto tree branches, fences, poles and other routes squirrels take to access feeders.


With persistence and creativity, you can outsmart those bushy-tailed nectar thieves. Don’t allow pesky squirrels to deprive hummingbirds of the energy they need. A combination of feeder types, placement strategies and deterrent techniques will help keep your hummingbird buffet safe.

Finding the right solution may require some trial and error. Observe where and how squirrels access the feeders and customize your deterrent plans accordingly. With a bit of effort, you can have a flourishing yard full of buzzing hummingbirds.

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