My Bird Feeders Keeping Breaking: Who's the Culprit?

So I have… okay, used to have an excellent collection of bird feeders in my backyard. In November 2019, I had:

4 nyjer finch socks
2 metal block feeders
1 metal large suet feeder
1 metal block hanger
1 metal mesh, plastic top/bottom sunflower feeder
1 metal mesh, metal top/bottom sunflower feeder
1 plastic 8 pound plastic mixed seed feeder
3 wooden mixed seed feeder flanked by suet mesh

Last month my feeders are much different.

Additions

4 nyjer socks
2 plastic downsized “dinette” sunflower feeders
1 wooden mixed seed feeder flanked by suet mesh

Repaired

1 metal mesh, metal top/bottom sunflower feeder
2 wooden mixed seed feeder flanked by suet mesh
1 plastic 8 pound plastic mixed seed feeder

Broken Unrepairable

4 nyjer finch socks (normal wear and tear)
1 wooden mixed seed feeder flanked by suet mesh
1 metal mesh, plastic top/bottom sunflower feeder

As of today, I know have 2 more unrepairable wooden feeders, my two sunflower dinettes are destroyed, my plastic 8-pound feeder’s bottom broke and the metal bottom to my remaining sunflower feeder broke. That means the only feeders I have left are:

  • Nyjer socks
  • Hanging seed block tray, 2 metal mesh seed block, large metal suet feeder
  • One wooden feeder

Point is, I’m sick of my feeders breaking and I’m tired of wasting $20 on a feeder that breaks in 2 weeks. Out of the 10 years I’ve fed birds, I’ve only replaced a feeder twice before last November. I’ve been placing trail cameras on my feeders in hopes of capturing the culprit but no such luck yet. What do you think it is in the pole and how would I go about stopping this from happening?

  • Deer
  • Squirrels
  • Wind (20-40 mph in winter)
  • Blackbirds
  • Other (Please specify)

0 voters

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What was the nature of the damage? Specifically, did there seem to be any teeth marks?

In the case of the plastic feeders, some types of plastic also become fragile with exposure to sunlight. If you get freezing temperatures, that might contribute as well. Could be several factors.

I would definitely suggest looking into squirrel proofing measures of some sort if you haven’t already.

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I think every backyard will be unique but in our backyard (urban setting with lots of natural areas and parks nearby), it’s all about the squirrels. When we first moved here, they had been living in the attic and when we replaced some older vents with newer metal ones, they try chewing through the metal to get into the attic.

We have three hangers (from a large birch) that we rotate different feeders onto. We have squirrel baffles on them (the ones that hang on top of the feeder) and we’ve found that better quality baffles work better than cheap ones (it’s about the design of the baffles, not the quality of materials). We also have to keep the hangers certain distances from perches the squirrels can jump from. When they were jumping from the trunk to one feeder, sliding off the baffle, and jumping onto the next feeder… we moved baffles and feeders around to make it harder for him which seems to have worked for the moment. I figure we get a new batch of squirrels every 6-12 months and we kind of start new with each batch.

We don’t have deer or bears and, to my knowledge, the raccoons have never gotten into the feeders. I think in more suburban or rural areas, deer is definitely a problem. And if you have bears, lots of folks will say not to feed birds at all - or at least bring in the feeders at night.

If you don’t see squirrels jumping on your feeders during the day, my guess is, it’s not squirrels. We may need more info on what your habitat is like and what your set up is like (poles? hangers? baffles? etc).

For what it’s worth, some bird feeder companies will warranty their product against squirrel damage. We have, in the past, gotten a new baffle when a squirrel damaged one we had.

2 Likes

No teeth marks. For all the plastic feeders, I’d always find them on the ground in the morning with the bottoms broken off and being unrepairable due to plastic lips holding the bottom to sides were broken. The wooden feeders had they hanging cables broken off, usually where the cable meets the wood and only on one side.

And to answer @mmmiller, here’s a short list of mammals I’ve seen or caught on trail cams in my yard. I live in a rural ranch home.

  • Mule Deer
  • Fox Squirrel
  • Eastern Cottontail
  • Common Raccoon
  • Red Fox
  • Yellow-bellied Marmot

I have caught deer eating from the feeders but I placed the feeders up two feet higher so they can’t reach it.

A good rule of thumb that that I use with my customers (I work at a Wild Birds Unlimited), is that if the feeders were full when you went to bed and empty, destroyed, or gone in the morning, than you probably have Raccoons. Deer and Bear are also possible depending on where you are.

If they are squirrels, than the damage is probably something that you will be seeing during the day.

If it was wind than you would know; a wind storm followed by broken feeders.

I would suggest that you look into getting some American made feeders from Aspects or Droll Yankee, these are going to be significantly tougher than cheaper feeders and Aspects has a good warranty on their feeders. Or you could look into some of the heavy duty recycled plastic feeders, these are tanks, and assuming you can set your feeders in a way that Raccoons can’t get to them (yes you can), can last for a long time.

3 Likes

My vote is raccoons, man they are destructive little creatures.

Can you make some of your own feeders out of wood to make them more durable? Probably find some plans on YouTube. Just doing a search to see what a nyjer socks was, I see images of other feeders. I would think you could get some larger maybe 2" PVC pipe, caps for the top and bottom; drill some holes and make some kind of lip on the hole and have much sturdier feeders.

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I’m going with squirrels, but as others have said, it sounds like it could be other animals (or perhaps multiple species are to blame). I’ve lost a couple bird feeders to gray squirrels over the years, usually it is pretty obvious (teeth marks or seen in the act), but I have had a few feeders simply knocked to the ground and broken by squirrels. A few weeks ago, I glanced out my window and saw a gray squirrel on the ground dragging off one of my suet feeders! I have a family of raccoons living in a hollow maple tree just fifty feet from my feeders, but I’ve never had a problem with them, only the squirrels. Damaging feeders is only a minor concern of mine with the squirrels, I’m far more concerned about nest predation.

By the way, homemade wooden feeders are usually really good at withstanding squirrel damage, especially if they are pole-mounted.

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Could it possibly be a raccoon. They are quite destructive when it comes to getting at food.

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Are humans outside the realm of possibilities?

Yeah. One would think. I mean, why would someone damage bird feeders (who wants to eat birdseed or the fat surrounding the kidneys of cows and sheep?).

I would guess (as someone else suggested) that cheap “Made in China” bird feeders are at least partly to blame.

That would be really creepy if that were so. I only have two neighbors so…

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If it’s happening at night or during times you don’t witness it. It’s either coons or humans.

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We had a wire mesh feeder that lasted for a long time, until, one night, a black bear grabbed it, popped the top off, ate the black oil sunflower seeds like movie popcorn, and tossed the bird feeder on the ground as he walked away. It was bent, but usable–we kept it for another 2 years. The bear never bothered it again. There were no teeth marks because the bear got the top off.

We used to be at a RV Park and there we always saw feeders getting broken with squirrels. As others have mentioned, you would probably see them, unless you aren’t paying attention. One resident of the park would go out and spray the water hose at it but it didn’t work. Agreeing with the community, try making your own bird feeders, and try putting out a game cam. Would make good observations. Good luck with your mystery culprit! :-)

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