Squirrels caught stealing
Researchers have unmasked a seedstealing, furry bandit that pinches millions of pounds-worth of food from UK gardens every year.
Scientists caught naughty grey squirrels in the act, filming their looting antics as they raided bird feeders and tables – leaving our feathered friends hungry and gardeners short-changed.
Nearly half of UK homes put food out for birds. This amounts to around 150,000 tonnes of food a year, costing approximately £210 million. After filming more than 33,000 visits to bird feeders, scientists from the University of Reading found that the seemingly cute rodents regularly snaffle more than half of the nosh.
“By using uncaged feeders, much of the food we provide may be going to unintended recipients. It’s not only that birds lose out on a source of food, but we are supporting a species that can harm the ones we intend to help,” explained Professor Mark Fellowes, who led the study. Grey squirrels are also known to invade nests in search of eggs and chicks, putting the birds at further risk.
Feeders encased in a protective cage were not plundered as often as regular ones. However, the number of birds visiting these types of feeders was reduced, too. It is thought that birds feel unable to escape easily should a predator arrive while they are inside. One simple way to deter squirrels is to put out the birds’ favourite foods – for instance, grey squirrels typically prefer nuts to seeds. Also, if you put a feeder on top of a pole, you can foil the thieves by greasing the pole to stop them scampering up so easily.
It seems that nothing is safe from acrobatic squirrels.
Watch out, there’s a thief about!