that will deter the squirrels and the chipmunks that had been monopolizing the new bird feeder.
Good old chili powder.
After much soul-searching, I mixed up a batch of mixed bird seed with chili powder and shook it around so most of them were well coated, poured it in the bird feeder, went back inside the house and watched the squirrel march right up expectantly to its much-anticipated feast. Two sniffs and one scratchy second later, the squirrel scampered down the railing and proceeded to bury its nose in the dewy grass, presumably in hopes of washing off the offending chili powder.
The chipmunk watched this from a distance and merely stayed away from the feeder, which had definitely offered it a very convenient perch a day before.
Today, the bird feeder is empty, after having hosted assorted cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, and titmouses. No sign of the squirrel.
M was upset:"Why did you put chili powder in the birdseed? Poor squirrel and chipmunks! They will go hungry."
"They had the seed in the feeder from the day before, the birds hardly got anything that day," I protested.
"Won't it hurt the birds, if the squirrel doesn't like it?"
"Don't be silly, it doesn't hurt our tummies, how will it hurt the birds? In fact, it wouldn't hurt the squirrels' tummies, either. The squirrels don't like it because the powder irritates their skin, and will keep away because of it."
M was dissatisfied, until I promised to alternate the chili-laced birdseed with normal birdseed, just to permit the squirrel and chipmunks treats on alternate days. That is, if they ever try to come back for more.