Sunday, November 29, 2009
This feeder is spring-loaded so that if anything heavier than a songbird or two (e.g. a squirrel) lands on one of the four metal perches, the green cage on the outside drops down, cutting off access to the food inside the feeder.
Most squirrels land on it once or twice, get the message, and move on. Or rather, move down: they realize they can get more food for less effort by foraging under the feeder for seeds dropped by birds.
But this guy was determined not to give up: I've seen him approach the feeder from the top and cling to the cage upside down. I've seen him take unsuccessful flying leaps at it from the shepherd's hook it hangs from, or from the nearby birdbath, which he kept knocking over. (And which I have subsequently moved further away.) Over the course of a few weeks, he has learned to avoid putting his full weight on the perches.
The picture above shows his solution: it's a labor-intensive one; note that he's straining to keep his weight centered on the back of his long squirrelly torso so that the cage won't drop. He can't hold that position for long; he usually hangs on for about five seconds before scurrying away. And he probably burns more calories trying to get stuff out that feeder than he takes in.
I know I can make the whole problem go away by hanging the feeder from the middle of a long high branch, where there won't be any squirrel-jumpable access points. But I've grown way too fond of having my visiting birds at eye level, just outside my back door. And I have to give this guy props for persistence and problem-solving savvy—something I've been striving to cultivate in my students throughout my teaching career. After all, if Gators can get extra credit for extraordinary effort, why not squirrels?