American Ninja Forager
May 25, 2020 8:32 AM   Subscribe

In backyards around the world, a vicious resource war is being fought between the avians and the rodents. Are you tired of standing idly by? Do you prefer the lilt of birdsong to the screech and chatter of tree-rats? Then perhaps you should look at the latest in birdfeeder anti-squirrel technology: an extensive, squirrel-scale backyard obstacle course created by YouTube science guy Mark Rober (previously). The results may surprise you. They definitely won't.
posted by ZaphodB (39 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

Admitting you have an "Animal Feeder" is even simpler.
posted by bonehead at 9:02 AM on May 25, 2020 [13 favorites]

That is the most YouTube thumbnail I've seen all week. Only needs a more extreme "absolutely flabbergasted" facial expression on the man in the background.
posted by glonous keming at 9:05 AM on May 25, 2020

That obstacle course video is genius.
posted by theora55 at 9:10 AM on May 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

When I first put up a bird feeder I was super annoyed at the two or three squirrels who would visit but then I realized that the birds weren't put off by them and they didn't treat it like an all-you-can-eat buffet so I gave up being annoyed. It's fun to see how each squirrel attacks the problem of getting on to the feeder. One climbs down the chain, one shakes the branch to sprinkle out seeds on the grass, and one jumps from the trunk on to the feeder.
posted by cooker girl at 9:16 AM on May 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

I tried all kinds of home-engineering solutions, but the squirrels defeated them all. Now I have a Squirrel Buster Bird Feeder. They claim it's 100% effective, but the furries can still make it spill some seed by giving it a jolt, and they then go to the ground and eat the spillage. Now I want to discourage the English Sparrows that mob the feeder and empty it in about 5 hours. I finally got some sunflower seeds, which they like less than the mixed seed, so things are some better, but still.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:29 AM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Can't wait to see what circus he devises for those pesky fleas.
posted by Catblack at 9:32 AM on May 25, 2020

If you have kids, you can do worse than letting them watch Mark Rober. He's usually pretty fun and actually teaches stuff in his videos (I can't say the same for my neighbour the Hacksmith).

In my experience with squirrels and bird feeders, they tend to eventually give up. After a couple ridiculous goes at the "squirrel proof" style feeders (including the squirrel buster) I have hanging from the porch, they shift to janitorial duties and focus on clean up (which I appreciate). I assume that squirrels recognise that they just don't have time for that BS. Also I've found that certain bird seed mixes attract squirrels more than others. If you stick to the mixes without a lot of corn or nuts in the feeders the squirrels don't seem as interested (at least our grey squirrels don't seem as interested). The squirrels seem to mostly get along with the chipmunks and the heavier birds (mourning doves, grackles, starlings, jays and I saw a crow take a swipe at the feeders once as well) that scavenge at the floor of my porch, which I also appreciate.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:34 AM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are a couple more squirrel obstacle courses at this link.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:38 AM on May 25, 2020

WRT squirrels scavenging spilled seed, they aren't so thorough, at least when it comes to sunflower seeds. Like most of the birds, they'll shell the seeds, eat the insides, and leave the husks. When we let the rabbit out on the deck and give him a little pile of seeds, he eats all of it. He won't go down the stairs to the lawn, though.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:44 AM on May 25, 2020

I often use the more expensive "no mess" feed (when I can get it) so the sunflower seed hulls aren't usually a big issue for us. Between the chipmunks and the larger birds, along with the squirrels, they all seem to do an ok job of cleanup.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:49 AM on May 25, 2020

Definitely walnuts, they are the thing that will get birds and squirrels to come and yell at you to come outside and give them a treat and they'll happily sit on your knee and eat out of your hand. They do like corn, drive a couple of big nails through the tree branch from the bottom and stick ears of hard seed corn on the nails and they'll sit and eat while leaving the bird feeder alone. According to gramps, their brains are quite tasty. They're also one of the few mammals who point down when climbing down a tree.

Mark is fine, one overly trusting others experiment that went awry does not a scandalous tuber make.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:52 AM on May 25, 2020 [7 favorites]

This is that guy who faked having his packages stolen. Surprised he's still at it.

Mark is fine, one overly trusting others experiment that went awry does not a scandalous tuber make

BuzzFeed has some context. Seems like if you like Mark, he was ill-used. If you don’t like him, he was devious.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:18 AM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you want your feeders to be bird only, mix in hot sauce to the seed mix. The squirrels can smell the capsaicin and won’t touch it. Birds aren’t affected at all.
The obstacle courses are more entertaining, though.
posted by mfu at 11:18 AM on May 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Some people have squirrels stealing their birdseed, I got a friend who has coatis stealing his cat food.
posted by Tom-B at 11:20 AM on May 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

Hate To Break It To You, But The Amazing Glitter Bomb Package Video Is Pretty Much Staged -- I think Going To Maine's link which 404'd for me.
Seems like if you like Mark, he was ill-used. If you don’t like him, he was devious.
Pretty much. He's not my favorite but given his other videos it seems like an honest misjudgement in the execution phase that the internets piled onto.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:07 PM on May 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

This video is great and I learned a lot about squirrels from it. Highly recommend actually watching it.
posted by tofu_crouton at 12:29 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


*Ha, ha, ha*

posted by Mitheral at 12:46 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

My daughter and I made a squirrel feeder in the hopes that paying them off with seeds will stop them from digging up our precious strawberry plants (no I haven't shown her the saltwater video). It was a pleasant surprise to see that birds would come to the feeder as well, including a really cute pair of cardinals that "kiss" each other, and both the birds and squirrels were pretty chill about it. It remains to be seen if it actually prevents the squirrels from digging up our plants but it was fun to make and its fun to see the animals eating at the feeder.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:57 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Squirrels are cuter than birds. That is all. :P
posted by Aleyn at 1:21 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

I love Phantastic Gus!
posted by hippybear at 1:22 PM on May 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

Honestly even the idea of the glitter bomb video seems kind of flawed. People aren't squirrels.

That said he wasn't poking dead bodies, people make mistakes. I like his videos fine most of the time.
posted by onya at 2:52 PM on May 25, 2020

With all the stories in this thread, I'm beginning to wonder if all of my neighborhood squirrels are just a bunch of slackers.

I've never once seen one on the feeder, which is a bog standard tube feeder with a clear baffle hanging from a branch.
posted by madajb at 4:43 PM on May 25, 2020

According to gramps, their brains are quite tasty.

There's some evidence that the consumption of squirrel brains is probably a bad idea.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:44 PM on May 25, 2020

MetaFilter: evidence that the consumption of squirrel brains is probably a bad idea
posted by hippybear at 4:56 PM on May 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

Damn squirrels, now they've gone about infiltrating our research publications!
posted by 7segment at 4:59 PM on May 25, 2020

I used to chase squirrels from the feeder until one year a mother squirrel brought her two glossy offspring to the feeder, and I decided I was directly responsible for making those youngsters so plump and fit, and I gave up chasing them. Now they barely rate as a problem since possums started raiding the feeder.
posted by acrasis at 5:07 PM on May 25, 2020

1980s edition
posted by pwnguin at 5:14 PM on May 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

This was the happiest thing all day.

And Gus is competing while pregnant, no less. Go Gus!

Related book on the war between the squirrels and the humans.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:17 PM on May 25, 2020

Gus' ability to just splay and not care reminds me of one of my more attractive yet annoying roommates I've ever had. Yay Keith! Happy, annoyed memories.
posted by hippybear at 6:29 PM on May 25, 2020

He's got some nice gear and some disposable income, it's great that he's putting it to really creative use and sharing with all of us.

My favourite is Phantastic Gus.

The squirrelpult was such a great teachable moment.

I was never bothered by having squirrels in the backyard but never made friends with any of them. My affinity seems to be with urban crows.
posted by porpoise at 7:37 PM on May 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Make friends with the crows. They carry grudges that I don't think squirrels carry.
posted by hippybear at 8:00 PM on May 25, 2020 [6 favorites]

Make friends with the crows.

For sure! I'm pretty certain that kids and at least one grand-kid of one has been formally introduced to me by a friend (and theirs to the "fiberfill" mine on my balcony, and the safe stash spots).

Unfortunately I've moved away.
posted by porpoise at 9:51 PM on May 25, 2020

Make friends with the crows.

in breeding season the crows will try to snatch squirrels off the trees. Outside breeding season they apparently gang up in order to rip out bedding plants and turf on all our neighbours' neat front lawns (ours only survives because it's 'medowized' and them pulling the moss out is a bonus).

Unlike Mark I have had good luck with the sliding-design squirrel proof feeders. Obviously they have to be ziptied, wired and ccarabiner-ed shut and to the holding post otherwise the ol 'chuck it to the floor and ravage the contents' approach works. After 7 years of experiments, including springs, grease, baffles and a lot more, this is the only thing that has kept them out.

The worst of it is, they now know that I'm not really going to do anything to them, my soft-hearted vegetarianism obviously has a scent, so when I go out and yell they sometimes run away, but sometimes also call my bluff and just sit there, waiting until I get up to them, find there is nothing I can do that doesn't invovle being bitten, and then skulk away, beta mammal that I am.

Oblig photo. when they are little they can fit in here, although they can't always fit back out again and I have to go and rescue them. Such a sucker.
posted by AFII at 5:10 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


I saw that on PBS in the early 90s, and have always wished I could see it again. In fact, before I saw your comment, I just texted my best friend, whom I lived with back then:
S, do you remember a million years ago—like at our apartment in Haslett—watching a PBS show about a person trying to outsmart the squirrels with increasingly challenging obstacles? I loved that show. I’ve always wanted to see it again. Here is the next-best thing, which is a guy setting up an obstacle course for his squirrels.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
posted by Orlop at 7:54 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

A while ago there was an fpp that featured a video of a camera stolen by a squirrel, who then took the camera on a romp through the treetops.

Ever since seeing that, I've wanted a videogame where I can play as a squirrel so badly. This would be a great setup for a game, actually; the intro level is getting to a normal bird feeder, and then the conflict with the homeowner gradually escalates, with obstacle courses getting more complex and absurd. Maybe have this area as a regularly-revisited side quest in a giant sprawling open-world squirrel RPG, where you run quests in the treetops and avoid ravenous predators and fight turf wars using squirrel-parkour superpowers.
posted by MrVisible at 8:21 AM on May 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

The 1999 BBC obstacle course show was named "Daylight Robbery".
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:23 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

One more! Coati stealing from bird feeder in my friend's backyard.
posted by Tom-B at 2:00 PM on May 26, 2020

The actual obstacle course was pretty amazing, but the casual misogyny of assuming all the squirrels were male and the weird bikini long hair stuffed squirrel, as well as the fat-shaming made this less fun and not something I'm going to share with others.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:40 AM on May 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

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