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WDFW LogoLiving with Wildlife

For more information on the Living With Wildlife series, contact the WDFW Wildlife Program




Solutions to Some Feeder Problems

Household CATS stalking birds at your feeder

  • Leave 15-20 feet between a low feeder and shrubs so birds can see lurking cats
  • Surround the area immediately around the feeder with an 18" high chicken wire barrier where birds feed on the ground
  • Cat owners who are "environmentally aware" keep their cats indoors - it's best for the birds and for the cats

    If it’s not your cat:

  • Talk to the cat owner and ask for cooperation
  • Call your city/county animal control officer, especially if your community has a leash law for cats
  • Trap the offending cat in a harmless live-trap, then return it to its owner, local animal shelter or humane society (note: some communities may not allow the use of traps for cats - check with city & county officials)

Too many STARLINGS and HOUSE SPARROWS in your yard

  • Use selective feeders such as tube feeders and shorten or remove perches and small seed openings
  • Hang feeders with string or wire so they twirl and sway
  • Use unhulled sunflower seeds and avoid using seed mixes that contain millet.
  • Avoid table scraps, bakery goods, and large amounts of bird seed
  • Avoid platform feeders and ground feeding
  • Use suet feeders where the only access to food is by hanging upside down


  • Cover all perch sites (especially under eaves), or make them unusable
  • Cover platform feeders with a 1.5 inch wire mesh barrier


  • Provide only as much seed to ground-feeding and platform-feeding birds as can be eaten in one day
  • Clean up all spilled and left over seed
  • Avoid using seed mixtures (birds discard unwanted seeds)
  • Install barriers (as described below) to prevent rats from accessing feeders

SQUIRRELS raiding your feeders

  • Hang several pie pans, metal lids, or phonograph records horizontally up and down the supporting wire of hanging feeder, spaced with short sections of garden hose or plastic tubing; these will tip when a squirrel steps on them
  • Suspend hanging feeder from wire stretched between two trees; put plastic tubing around wire on either side of feeder (tubing will rotate around the wire when a squirrel steps on it)
  • For feeders on poles, wrap a piece of rigid sheet metal, pie pan, or other such material around the pole to form a cone at least 5 feet from ground; grease the pole
  • Make sure feeders atop poles are at least 5 feet above ground and 8 feet from nearest tree (squirrels are great jumpers!)
  • Hang feeders with wire that squirrels can’t chew through
  • Look for special feeder designs in mail-order catalogues


Many birds concentrated around a feeder may attract a small hawk especially in winter. During the lean months hawks sometimes venture into urban areas in search of a meal in order to survive. They too feel the sting of winter. The occasional foray of a sharp-shinned or Cooper’s hawk into your yard should be seen as a gift rather than a problem. A hawk hunting in your yard indicates a healthy functioning system. Healthy songbirds will take cover in surrounding trees and shrubs.