Do Squirrels Eat Nyjer Seed?

If you are an avid bird enthusiast, you may be familiar with the benefits of providing nyjer seed for birds. These small, black seeds are highly nutritious and attract a wide variety of finches, including goldfinches and siskins. However, as any bird feeder owner knows, squirrels can be persistent and clever when it comes to accessing food sources. In this article, we will explore the intriguing question: Do squirrels eat nyjer seed? We will delve into the behavior of squirrels, factors that influence their feeding habits, and strategies to squirrel-proof your nyjer feeders.

Importance of Nyjer Seed for Birds

Before we dive into the squirrel conundrum, it’s important to understand why nyjer seed is highly valued by birds. Nyjer seed, also known as thistle seed, is a rich source of oils and fats that provide essential energy for birds, especially during the colder months. Finches, in particular, have adapted to extract the tiny seeds from the nyjer feeders using their specialized beaks, making it a sought-after food choice for these species.

Nyjer Seed and Squirrels

Squirrels, on the other hand, are not known for their delicate feeding habits. These nimble rodents are equipped with sharp incisors that allow them to gnaw through various types of seed shells. While nyjer seed is not typically their first preference, squirrels have been observed to consume it on occasion. Their adaptability and opportunistic behavior can lead them to explore different food sources, including bird feeders filled with nyjer seed.

Do Squirrels Eat Nyjer Seed?

The answer to this question is a bit complex. While squirrels do not generally target nyjer seed as their primary food source, they are known to raid bird feeders in search of sustenance. If other food sources are scarce or inaccessible, squirrels may resort to consuming nyjer seed. However, compared to other types of seeds such as sunflower seeds or peanuts, squirrels are less likely to consume nyjer seed due to its small size and relatively lower fat content.

Factors Influencing Squirrel Behavior

Several factors influence squirrel behavior when it comes to nyjer seed consumption. These include the availability of alternative food sources, the presence of other bird feeders nearby, the squirrel population in the area, and the level of competition between squirrels and birds. Additionally, squirrels have individual preferences and may exhibit different behaviors based on their personal food preferences.

Squirrel-Proofing Nyjer Feeders

To ensure that nyjer seed is primarily enjoyed by birds rather than squirrels, it’s essential to employ effective squirrel-proofing strategies. One popular approach is to use specialized feeders designed with features that deter squirrels, such as metal cages or weight-activated mechanisms that close off access to the seed when heavier animals like squirrels attempt to feed. Placing the feeder away from jumping-off points or using squirrel baffles can also help prevent squirrel interference.

Alternative Seed Options for Squirrels

If you have a squirrel-friendly backyard and want to provide an alternative food source to distract squirrels from your bird feeders, there are several seed options that squirrels tend to prefer. Sunflower seeds, peanuts, and corn kernels are among the top choices for squirrels. By offering these seeds in separate squirrel feeders placed strategically away from your bird feeders, you can help divert the squirrels’ attention while still attracting a variety of birds to your yard.


Can squirrels damage nyjer feeders?

Squirrels have strong jaws and sharp teeth, which can potentially damage nyjer feeders. Opt for sturdy feeders made from metal or other squirrel-resistant materials to prevent damage.

Are there any other ways to deter squirrels from nyjer feeders?

Yes, you can try using squirrel repellents, such as spicy coatings or natural deterrent sprays, on the feeders. Additionally, regularly changing the location of the feeders can confuse squirrels and discourage them from persistently targeting them.

Can squirrels coexist peacefully with birds in the backyard?

Absolutely! With proper planning and strategies, squirrels and birds can coexist peacefully. Providing separate food sources for squirrels and birds can help maintain harmony in your backyard.

Do all squirrel-proof feeders work effectively?

While squirrel-proof feeders can significantly reduce squirrel access to nyjer seed, some particularly ingenious squirrels may still find a way to outsmart them. It’s a good idea to try different squirrel-proofing methods to find the most effective solution for your specific situation.

Are there any other benefits to offering nyjer seed to birds?

Yes, nyjer seed is not only a nutritious food source but also attracts a diverse range of colorful finches, adding beauty and charm to your backyard. Watching these lively birds can provide hours of entertainment and enjoyment.


In conclusion, while squirrels may occasionally consume nyjer seed, it is not their preferred food choice. By understanding squirrel behavior, employing effective squirrel-proofing strategies, and offering alternative food options, you can create a balanced environment that benefits both birds and squirrels in your backyard. Providing nyjer seed primarily for finches and other small songbirds ensures they receive the nutrition they need while minimizing squirrel interference.

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