A Seed Squirrels Won’t Eat?

Last Updated on June 7, 2021 by Nancie

Squirrel Eating Sunflower Seed

Is there really a seed that squirrels won’t eat? Squirrels can drive a backyard bird watcher a bit crazy. How can you keep squirrels from eating all the seed in your bird feeders? You might wonder if the solution is a seed squirrels won’t eat. Well, there is one seed that squirrels don’t eat. The catch? It attracts a very limited variety of birds. I do have a better suggestion though.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

This Nyjer Seed is a seed squirrels won't eat
Nyjer Seed

First, A Seed Squirrels Don’t Eat?

In my yard, squirrels seem completely indifferent to nyjer seed. Nyjer seed is the one seed that squirrels don’t eat here. I don’t have to baffle the nyjer feeders. And even if I sprinkle some on the ground for sparrows, the squirrels don’t eat this seed.

Now, all creatures are different. So it is possible that squirrels in your yard might eat it. But I’ve never seen a squirrel eating nyjer seed.

Goldfinches Eating Nyjer
Goldfinches Eating Nyjer

Why Not Fill All Feeders With Nyjer?

I have four feeders filled with nyjer. American Goldfinches love it. Other finches like House Finches and Purple Finches eat nyjer too. Pine Siskins will eat it and if you sprinkle it on the ground, some sparrows will eat it. (These include Dark-Eyed Juncos, White-Throats, Fox, Song and Chipping Sparrows.)

The trouble with nyjer is that lots of other backyard birds don’t eat it. If you are okay with feeding a limited group of birds, this might be your solution. But if you want see a wider variety at your feeders, it’s not going to do it for you. (See my post on How to Choose Birdseed For Backyard Birds for an idea of which birds eat what.)

This Safflower is a seed squirrels will eat
Safflower Seed

Will Squirrels Eat Safflower Seed?

You may have been told that squirrels won’t eat safflower seed. It’s true that safflower is not most squirrels’ favorite food. But if that is what is available, squirrels will eat safflower.

The squirrels in my yard have been eating it very willingly for years. Generations of these squirrels have grown up eating safflower seed, so they don’t even hesitate. They prefer sunflower or peanuts, but if safflower is in reach, they’ll take it.

Again, all creatures are different. The squirrels in your yard may shun safflower seed. But I suspect that if you give them enough time and they can’t get anything else, they will eventually eat it. So it might be a temporary solution at best.

Squirrel Eating Suet
Squirrel Eating Suet

Do Squirrels Eat Suet and Other Bird Foods?

Yes. Squirrels will eat suet. They don’t like hot pepper flavored suet, but if there is nothing else to eat, they’ll eat that too.

Squirrels will also eat dried mealworms. I’m not sure about live ones since I’ve never offered them. But if I put dried mealworms out on the ground or in a ground feeder, a squirrel will come and snap them up.

I’ve never seen squirrels interested in the sugar-water mixture I put out for hummingbirds. But most birds don’t drink that either. (I have seen them drink water out of a water moat on a hummingbird feeder though.)

Cardinals and Goldfinches at Feeders on Pole
Cardinals and Goldfinches at Feeders on Pole

An Alternative Squirrel Solution

So what is the solution? Trying to offer birds something squirrels don’t eat is just setting yourself up for frustration. The trick is instead to keep squirrels away from seed and other bird food.

Hang your feeder from a pole (or mount it on a pole) and baffle it correctly. Position it so squirrels can’t jump over to it or reach out to the feeder from some other perch.

Or if you hang your feeder from a tree branch, baffle it correctly and position it so a squirrels can’t jump to or reach to the feeder. And/or get yourself a Squirrel Buster Plus or Squirrel Buster Classic feeder and position them correctly. If you need to choose a hanging baffle, see my post on Best Hanging Squirrel Baffle. Also see Keep Squirrels Out of Feeders and Solving Squirrel Bird Feeder Problems.

If you set up feeders, poles and baffles correctly, you can keep squirrels out. When mulling the expense of poles, baffles and/or better squirrel proof feeders, consider savings on seed. You’ll be glad that you made the investment.

What do squirrels eat in your yard?


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15 thoughts on “A Seed Squirrels Won’t Eat?

  1. You are right as rain Nancie. 😉 If feeders are located properly, squirrels at feeders are no issue. We love our squirrels too, so I put a mix of peanuts , corn and pumpkin seed on a ground feeder.

    1. Hi Robert, Now that squirrels don’t get into my feeders, I like them a lot more! I put out excess seeds from melons and squash sometimes but they don’t always get eaten. When I cut up an orange for us to eat, I start by slicing off the ends and then cut off the rest of the peel. The sliced ends each have a little bit of orange flesh on them. I put those out in a little pile for the squirrels. They seem to enjoy them, gobbling down one after another. I do have to then gather up the peels that I find here and there afterwards. : ) Nancie

      1. Hi Nancie, I’m glad to hear so! They gotta eat too! Wonder if you dried the melon and squash seeds in oven if they would eat them all? That’s a little more work though. Never tried the rinds, but that is a great tip! Thanks. On a few occasions, I’ve caught them in empty peanut butter jars. How and where they got them is a mystery, but they licked ’em clean. Enjoy your Sunday 🙂

  2. Our squirrel loves the niger seed. He swings in the air, hugging the feeder, with his mouth around the tiny feeder opening. I don’t know if he’s sticking his tongue in or sucking or what, but the seed has suddenly started disappearing – and I’ve never seen a goldfinch in the garden….

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      That is one weird squirrel. I’ve never seen a squirrel eat nyjer in my yard, but things do change with wild creatures. Sometimes they surprise you and learn to eat something new. I know that the squirrels in my yard did learn to eat safflower over time after all. Just one question: Is there anything else mixed in with the nyjer? (Sometimes it will be mixed with other seeds that squirrels like so they will get into it when they otherwise would leave it alone.) Doesn’t sound like it from your description, but I had to ask.

      If you have a squirrel getting into it and you want him to stop, you’ll need to make sure you have a good baffle on the feeder and the feeder is not within jumping range so he can’t jump to it. I’m a fan of poles for this. If you put a feeder on a pole with a correctly placed baffle and it is out of jumping range, that should keep him off it. I have a bunch of posts here on the site about baffles, poles and dealing with squirrels.

      Good luck!

      1. Our squirrels will not eat safflower,and I certainly hope this does not change over time! I have big fat rabbits and chipmunks grazing below my feeders too.

        1. Hi Connie,
          I hope that your squirrels will prove pickier than mine! The squirrels in my yard did not immediately eat safflower but that did change over time. Our local groundhog is also content with eating safflower when birds scatter it under the feeders.
          Good luck!

          1. Hi my name is Mary bombard and I have problems with squirrels I had bird feeders on my porch up above the Banisters and I have tried everything under the Sun to try to get rid of them and they still hang around I even tried putting Vaseline on the Banisters and I still find a way to get up there

          2. Hi Mary,
            With squirrels, the best thing to do is keep feeders outside of their jumping distance. Where you are putting the feeders is going to be a problem. Putting the feeders off the porch on a well-placed and well-baffled pole would be your best bet. That’s how feeders are set up in my yard. The squirrels still hang around underneath the feeders but they can’t get on the feeders themselves. Since I moved mine to poles, I stopped having to fight with squirrels.

            If you are determined to keep the feeders on the porch, you will need to try and figure out how the squirrels are getting to the feeders. It sounds like you think they are getting onto the feeders by jumping up from the banisters? If that is the case, you might try moving the feeders away from the banisters if possible. Knowing squirrels though, if they can’t get to a feeder one way, they will try another. So they might also come at it from above. It’s possible a Squirrel Buster feeder might help. They are designed so that if a squirrel gets on them, the ports will close. You have to position them at least 18″ away from anything a squirrel could sit on though so they can’t reach the feeder without putting their weight on it. Here is a review I did of the Squirrel Buster Plus if you are interested: https://birdseedandbinoculars.com/wordpress/squirrel-buster-plus-bird-feeder-review/

            Good luck!

  3. We had used safflower seeds for about three years now in a window feeder, because with oilers the squirrels jumped on it, it eventually came loose and fell two stories to the cement patio, braking. Suddenly this fall one of the squirrels decided he liked safflower seeds. We thought we had a weird squirrel so interesting to read that it’s common for them to decide to eat the kind a seed you put out. So far the suction cup feeder hasn’t come loose but it’s probably a matter of time. It’s our second floor kitchen window and we like seeing the birds up close and don’t have a pole this high or an easy way to fill it if we had one

    1. Hi Jan,
      Yes, it is interesting how adaptable animals can be. The bad news is that once one critter decides that something is good to eat, others in the group are likely to follow, especially if they are hungry enough. In my yard, squirrels sit under the platform feeders where the Mourning Doves spill safflower seed onto the ground below. They tend to go for the easy seed first. The older squirrels seem to have learned that they can’t get into the baffled feeders but the young ones each year always seem to go through the motions, thinking that through cleverness and persistence that they will get into them.

      There are baffles for branch hung feeders and baffles for feeders on a pole. As far as I know, there are no baffles specifically for window feeders. Still, you might watch to see how squirrels are getting to this feeder. Are they climbing down from the roof or jumping/reaching from someplace they can climb up to? Is there any way you might block them? If they are coming down from the roof, one possibility that occurs to me is whether you could hang a feeder from an arm that is attached to the house with a wide disk baffle over it. The feeder itself would have to hang at least 18″ from the house or any other place the squirrel could sit so the squirrel couldn’t reach. So the birds would still be close but not as close as right at the window. I’ve never tried that type of set-up so I don’t know if it would work. And it’s also possible that it might keep them from getting to the feeder from above but that they would then approach the feeder from a different direction. Squirrels can be maddeningly tenacious.

      Good luck!

    1. Hi Dee,
      Interesting. I know some pet owners offer quinoa to their pet birds, but I don’t think a lot of people are offering it to backyard birds. How did the birds react to the new seed? Any particular bird species that seemed to especially like it?

      If you continue to offer quinoa, do continue to keep an eye on the squirrels to make sure they don’t acquire a taste for it. The squirrels in my yard have never taken to nyjer seed even after years in the yard, but they adapted to eating safflower after shunning it at first.

  4. My squirrels have recently started emptying my hummingbird feeders on a daily basis. It’s frustrating and I feel bad for my hummingbirds. They figured out how to tilt it and suck it out like a bottle.

    1. Hi Carissa,
      Squirrels can be SOOO annoying sometimes. Can you get the feeders out of the squirrels’ reach? Maybe on a baffled pole away from jumping points?

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