Brome Bird Care, according to reviews, makes an excellent feeder that denies squirrels access to food. The Brome Squirrel Buster Plus (*Est. $75) is made of metal and durable polycarbonate plastic, and draws a variety of birds including small songbirds and even cardinals when the detachable perch ring is added. This tube feeder holds 3 quarts of seed, is 22 inches high and has six seed ports around the base. Bird Watcher's Digest says the flanges above the ports protect the seed in bad weather, keeping seed from getting moldy. When a squirrel tries to land on the feeder base, its weight causes the seed ports to close so it can't dine; and squirrels can't reach the seed by dangling from the top on account of the tube's length, according to Bird-Feeder-And-Bird-House-Guide.com.
Reviewers like the Brome bird feeder's flexibility. The spring-closing mechanism can be adjusted to exclude large birds (like pigeons) as well as red squirrels and chipmunks; individual perches can be lengthened or shortened to suit different species; and it comes with a detachable perch ring designed especially for cardinals. (Experts say the Northern Cardinal has a shorter neck and bigger feet than other songbirds, prefers not to bend while feeding and consequently feels uncomfortable at ordinary tube feeders with protruding straight perches.) The perch ring provides a secure grip for cardinals and lets them eat while facing forward, without turning their heads. One minor drawback, reflected in an owner comment, is that when several birds dine together, (depending on the assortment) their total weight could exceed the setting and cause the seed ports to close -- an unintended consequence of the squirrel-proof feature.
A variation with a wrap-around wire grid -- the Brome Squirrel Buster Classic (*Est. $40) - is also available. With a smaller capacity (1.7 quarts), shorter warranty (two years) and fewer flexible features (the perches can be removed to deter grackles), it still gets favorable reviews although not as many as the Brome Squirrel Buster Plus. If a squirrel lands on the wire grid, the whole grid moves down so that smaller openings in the grid now block access to the seed ports. This feeder is best suited to smaller birds.
Reviewers also say the Bouncer (*Est. $85), a tube-style feeder by Vari-Crafts, is very effective at deterring squirrels and large nuisance birds, but its collapsible perches are less than ideal for cardinals.
Droll Yankee makes a whole family of squirrel-proof tube feeders that win high praise, including the Flipper (*Est. $95), the Whipper (*Est. $85) the Tipper (*Est. $90) and the Dipper (*Est. $80). The feeders differ in which birds they attract.
The Droll Yankee Whipper has four cardinal-friendly, curved perches that are individually sprung and calibrated to collapse under the weight of anything heavier than a cardinal. The Dipper is similar, but with short straight collapsing perches, preferred by smaller songbirds. The Tipper features a weight-sensitive collapsing tray. The most expensive Droll Yankee Flipper has a motorized weight-activated perch ring. While favoring the Whipper overall, Nancy Dowling, a reviewer known as the Curious Wren, says the Dipper is "ideal for small birds like chickadees," while the Tipper is "great for bigger birds," and the Flipper, which is motorized, is good for "all sized birds." Bird-Feeder-And-Bird-House-Guide.com agrees all four are very effective, but recommends the Whipper, the Dipper or the Tipper because they are motor-less (needing no battery) and come with a limited, lifetime warranty.
However, the Flipper is Droll Yankee's squirrel-proof star. You can see it in action on YouTube comically spinning off any squirrel that dares set paw on it, and reviewers give it kudos. Audubon's online magazine credits the Flipper with finally putting to rest the "old saw that there is no such thing as a squirrel-proof bird feeder." This feeder is 21 inches high, holds 3.3 quarts of seed and is made of durable plastic with a tight-fitting metal cap. The interior design keeps seed flowing to four ports. The Flipper comes with rechargeable battery and a charger. On the downside, however, some point out that the Flipper is pricey and that it relies on a motor with battery that has to be recharged, giving squirrels a chance to sate their appetites after wearing out the battery. Bird-Feeder-And-Bird-House-Guide.com also points out that the motor on the Flipper is guaranteed for one year, in contrast to the body of the feeder, which is guaranteed for life. Finally, some say rain can get into the seed ports, a common disadvantage of tube feeders.
Two metal hopper feeders that are also squirrel-proof and get good reviews are the Absolute 7533 (*Est. $70) by Heritage Farms and the Roller Feeder (*Est. $75) by Aspects. The Absolute 7533 stores 2.5 gallons of seed in its hopper, which has plastic windows (so you can see when it needs to be replenished) and a weight-sensitive perch that can be adjusted to discourage large birds as well as squirrels. It comes with a five-year warranty. However, reviews show squirrels with high IQs can conquer it. The Roller has a smaller capacity (1.5 quarts) but uses a different method -- a rotating outer shell that surrounds the hopper and topples any squirrels that hop onto it. It comes with a lifetime warranty. Two owners report on Amazon.com that some red squirrels and grackles do manage to eat from this feeder, but Susie Duff, author of "Squirrel Proofing Tips," recommends it if you don't have room in your yard for the Duncraft Squirrel Stopper System (*est. $140), a pole with a built-in baffle and hooks for multiple feeders.
If you don't want to spend so much on a squirrel-proof bird feeder, one good option might be the Duncraft Squirrel-Blocker Selective (*Est. $30), a stainless steel mesh tube feeder surrounded by wire fencing. This feeder holds about 1.5 pounds of seed. The wire grid has room for more than a dozen birds and is, according to Bird Watcher's Digest, both a "great perch for small birds" and "an effective squirrel deterrent." A squirrel-lock on the top keeps the lid closed, and the "flow-through base" means no seed accumulates at the bottom to tempt squirrels. One Amazon.com customer notes the "all metal construction prevents chewing," and the feeder is easy to refill. Birds poke their heads through the fencing to peck one seed at a time.
Still another option is the Brome Squirrel Buster Mini (*Est. $25), voted "best new product" at the Birdwatch America trade show in 2008. It holds 3 cups of seed and comes with a two-year guarantee (but we did not uncover any reviews of this product).