If you’re a bird lover who enjoys seeing all types of birds in your yard, you already know that providing them with a steady supply of bird seed is a must.
The thing is that it can be frustrating to get up every morning and discover that all of the bird seed you just put out is all gone.
Since your birds will eat the seed throughout the day, you know that it isn’t them that’s gulping down all of the seeds at night.
So, what animals are the culprits?
Many different animals eat bird seed at night, and once you know what these animals are, you can usually take measures to reduce the odds of this happening. In the United States, the main animals that will sneak in and eat your bird seed at night include deer, skunks, rodents, chipmunks, possums, squirrels, raccoons, and even bears. All of these animals are opportunistic feeders, and the opportunity to eat bird seed out of people’s yards is never-ending.
Let’s take a look at some of these animals and why they want your bird seed in the first place.
Even though deer are somewhat skittish around people, they have no problem attacking your bird seed after dark.
And if you think that your bird feeder is safe because it is up on a pole, think again.
Bucks can use their antlers to knock your feeder to the ground, where it will then be free reign for them to consume as much of the seed as possible.
Deer eat a lot of different things, and this includes grain and seeds.
If you like, you can use a motion-activated repellent to chase away the deer so that only the birds will get to your bird seed.
Although striped skunks cannot climb, spotted skunks can, which makes it easy for them to get to your hanging bird feeder.
And even non-climbing skunks will still eat at the seeds that fall on the ground.
All skunks forage mainly on the ground, so whether they climb or not, they’ll still find lots of bird seeds to eat from your bird feeder.
If you want to reduce the mess and inconvenience caused by skunks trying to get at your bird seeds, invest in the “no mess” type of seed.
Always Good Idea: You can also choose a feeder that has a tray that catches any seeds not eaten by the birds. Above all else, these things reduce the amount of bird seeds that fall on the ground.
Rats and mice eat much of the same foods that birds do, which is why they are attracted to the seeds in your yard.
Rodents always feed on leftover seeds and hulls that end up being thrown on the ground by the birds, so there seems to be plenty of seeds for them to feast on throughout the night.
If you switch to “no mess” bird seed and a hanging bird feeder, it can make things better.
Other solutions include getting rid of your open tray ground feeder and using a feeder baffle, which they cannot get around to get to the seeds.
Keep in mind that rodents cannot normally climb to get to a hanging feeder, but they might be able to do so if they’re super hungry.
Chipmunks love bird seed just the same as squirrels do, and they can be found trying to get to your bird seed especially in the winter during hibernation.
During this time of year, they are searching for a lot of food in a short period of time, and your bird feeder makes that task extremely easy.
There are a few things you can do to discourage chipmunks from feeding on your bird seed:
- For one thing, you can use a baffle, which is very effective.
- You can also use one of those tall shepherd’s poles because chipmunks find them difficult to climb.
Possums can be especially annoying around bird feeders because they are fantastic climbers and find it easy to knock over the feeder until all of the seeds are on the ground.
Possums are not found everywhere in the U.S. but mainly live in the Pacific West Coast states and the central to eastern states.
You can stop most possums from climbing up the poles by including just enough seed in the feeder to satisfy the birds during the day so that it gets empty towards the end of the day.
You can also take your feeders in at night or even buy a large pole-shaped baffle (not the cone ones) to deter the possums from climbing up the pole and eating your bird seed.
Let’s face it; squirrels love to eat bird seed both day and night, so they’ll likely always be an annoyance when it comes to your bird feeder.
One of the things you can do to keep squirrels away is to switch up the type of seeds you put in your feeder.
If you use safflower seeds or seeds that are spicy, the squirrels will leave them alone but the birds will still love them.
Never use corn or black oil sunflower seeds, as this is what squirrels love the best.
You can also switch to a bird feeder that is weight-activated and only opens when lighter birds are perched on top of it.
Finally: A squirrel baffle is another suggestion because it makes it more difficult for squirrels to get to the feeder.
Raccoons are especially annoying because they are great climbers and will eat just about everything.
Some of the tips that may work to deter them include:
- underfilling your feeders
- taking the feeders inside at night
- switching to a thin pole
- using a weight-activated feeder
- and making sure that the feeders are secured well so they are more difficult to knock over
The thing about raccoons is that they are relentless when it comes to getting to your bird seed.
For this reason, you may not be able to prevent them from eating your bird seed altogether, but the tips mentioned above will certainly help.
If you live in an area where bears come onto your property and eat your bird seed, the bad news is that you’re essentially out of luck.
There is usually little you can do to deter them, save for a huge fence or an electric one.
What many people do is simply keep their feeders inside until October when bears start to hibernate.
While this isn’t the best solution for bird lovers, it’s often the only one that works for people who live around bears.
Determining Who the Culprit Is
If you want to deter animals who are coming into your yard and eating your bird seed, you have to first determine what types of animals they are.
You can catch these animals using any one of the following methods.
Use a Trail Cam
Trail cams can be miracle workers because they are relatively inexpensive and can be pointed directly at the feeder.
Even if you were to stay up at night watching for the culprit, the darkness may make it difficult for you to see it.
Using a trail cam will capture everything going on around your bird feeder and help you recognize exactly what is out there eating all of your bird seed.
Take a Look at the Damage
If you look at the damage in the rest of your yard, it’s often easy to determine what animal is out there eating from your bird feeder.
For example, animals such as bears, possums, and raccoons will usually raid the bins in your yard to get to other scraps of food.
Deer, raccoons, and rodents can also eat from your fruit trees or your vegetable garden.
Finally, if possums or skunks are the culprit, they sometimes leave a terrible smell behind that you’ll be able to smell the following morning.
Other Things to Look for
Looking for trail marks and animal poop can often tell you which animals are coming onto your property at night.
Trail marks in particular are easy to see, and some animals’ poop even has indications of what they’ve eaten beforehand.
The only thing you want to be careful with is coming across poop from animals such as raccoons, which can be very dangerous to humans.
In Fact: It is a good idea to handle all animal poop carefully by using protective equipment such as gloves and disposing of it properly
Many people love having bird feeders in their yards to attract all types of birds.
While it may sound like a simple task, it can be made more complicated if other animals start eating the bird seed at night while you’re asleep.
After all, bird seed is expensive, so you’ll want to save all of it for the birds and no other animals.
Fortunately, there are solutions to this problem that start with knowing what type of animal is eating the bird seed.
Between various products on the market and practicing some common-sense measures, the good news is that you should be able to deter most of these animals from eating your bird seed from now on.