Squirrels & Woodpeckers & Spicy Food... Oh My!

This is a Downy Woodpecker.  (Photo by Wolfgang Wander.) Mr. & Mrs. Downy (and their cousins Mr. & Mrs. Hairy Woodpecker) love to eat suet cakes.

First, my husband made a homemade suet cake by pouring bacon fat over a tub full of sunflower seeds. When the fat hardened, we suspended this tasty concoction in a suet cage from the maple tree outside our kitchen window.  It was an instant success. The woodpeckers, who could never be enticed to visit our other window, showed up hungry.

This worked well until the first warm sunny day of spring, when the bacon fat melted, dumping suet in greasy globs onto the grass below.  But hey, I can spring for a $3 suet cake from the food coop. Because I'm big like that. I bought one of the peanut butter flavored cakes and hung it up.

This proved so attractive to the local wildlife that a raccoon climbed up there, unstrung the cage and carried the whole thing away. 

So, back to the store. Hubby bought a new cage, made of wrought iron! Unless the neighborhood raccoons are doing 'roids, they won't be able to budge it.  The commercial suet cakes were once again the talk of the town. But one very wiley little red squirrel heard about the party. He (or she?) would sit up there, stick his little nose between the bars and gobble down the food. Worse, the squirrel chased the birds away.

Then my husband discovered hot pepper suet cakes. The squirrel took a few bites, fell from the feeder as if stabbed, and ran away "never to be seen again" as they'd say in a fairy tale.

And it's worked for weeks: happy woodpeckers, no squirrels. But I do wonder... Either this is a miracle solution. Or we're sending a lot of woodpeckers to the gastroenterologist.  I do hope it's the former and not the latter.