South of the border wild bird feed cuisine.

Watching wild birds feeding outside my windows these last several years has proven to be both continuous education and continuous challenge.  It’s amazing how things change and how many new learning opportunities pop up. 

Today I read about a squirrel’s pilfering suet put on a window ledge to draw birds near.  The post was complete with a darling picture of the bushy-tailed thief who seems to have won the heart of the kind photographer offering the feed as it peered in the window to have its image captured. 

Yes, those fuzzy animal friends are cute.  But given the cost of bird feed and the damage they can do, I prefer to discourage my rodent and other mammal friends from thinking my place is easy pickings. 

A male Downy Woodpecker eating from a suet fee...

My first suet feeder was placed in a tree where I could get a good look at it and the birds it drew.  One day I looked out the window and it was GONE without a trace!  I could not imagine who would have stolen it!  The groundskeepers?  A neighbor?  But why? 

On my next visit to the neighborhood bird supply store, the knowledgeable woman behind the counter just waved her hand and offered the explanation, “Raccoons.”  

Okay, I can see how raccoons would grope between the wires of the suet feeder frame to get the treats, but someone actually took the entire feeder!  Again, the shopkeeper just waved her hand and said, “Raccoons.”  She continued with, “When they find food, they carry it away to prevent other raccoons from competing for it.”  Incredulous, I countered, “But, the entire suet feeder was lifted from the tree branch and it’s GONE!  It’s nowhere to be found.  Someone took it and carried it off.  It’s not on the ground anywhere!”  Once more the lady calmly said, “Raccoons.” 

Since then I’ve covered a lot of ground with feeder and feed experiments to rid myself of raccoons, squirrels and those everywhere-you-look chipmunks.  (Thankfully, the chipmunks are underground for the winter.)  So, here’s the solution….think spicy south-of-the-border offerings.  Mammals can taste hot peppers and birds, with their very poorly developed sense of taste, cannot.  The birds feast on the hot pepper “flavored” suet cakes without a second thought while the squirrels won’t even venture a bite.  And I haven’t seen much of the raccoons, either.  Guaranteed – if they brave one taste of the hot pepper laced suet, those critters will be running to the nearest bar for a cold Dos XX!  I just hope they watch both ways when they cross the street to get there! 

Raccoons in a tree.

And what do you know … just last spring while trying to clear a pile of dead leaves that had gathered underneath my deck, what do you think the rake produced as I pulled it toward me?  My first suet feeder that had been carried off by raccoons!  It’s now back in use with hot pepper suet cakes drawing cardinals, catbirds, chickadees, woodpeckers, nuthatches, finches and more.  Now, if I could just figure a way to keep the English Sparrows away!  Any ideas?

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