Deterring Grackles at Your Bird Feeder

Posted by Nancy on 4/29/2015 to All About Bird Feeders

Question:  I am new to birding and I'm so confused! I have a bird feeder set up in my flower bed that has bushes in it. Things were going well when suddenly I began seeing so many Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds that I didn't see the small ones anymore, sparrows and finches.I bought a finch feeder and it is full of nyjer seed but I am not getting any of these small birds coming to it. Would you please be so kind to explain what is happening? Also, would you please give me some pointers to attract the lovely finches?

Answer:  I'm sorry to hear that the grackles and blackbirds have descended on your bird feeders.  These birds can travel in large flocks and eat an amazing amount of bird seed.   They often flock during March and April for the spring migration and then again in September and October for the fall migration.  Their range is from Montana to northern New Mexico east to the coast.  They can also spend the winter raiding your feeder if you live in their winter range.

I would like to make some recommendations that may help you.  First, do not feed anything such as bread, table scraps or leftovers. Grackles will take advantage of any food source.  Also, don't allow bird seed to accumulate under the feeders.  I would suggest you use a high quality bird seed that does not have corn or milo as filler.  These seeds are a grackle magnet and not well liked by many of the species you want to attract.

You didn't say what type of bird feeders you are using, but I would suggest that you do not use platform bird feeders  or hopper bird feeders.  Grackles like to perch when they eat.  Switch to a feeder like the Squirrel Buster Classic You can remove the perches to deter the grackles, but the small birds will be able to perch on the wire grid.  We also have feeders like the Classic Tube Feeder.  You can adjust the baffle so that large birds cannot land on the perches.

You may want to switch to a sunflower or safflower bird feeder without perches as both safflower and sunflower seed is not a favorite of grackles.  The sunflower is a favorite of the finches you want to attract.  Be sure to use black oil sunflower in your feeders.

If you are feeding suet, you will want to switch to an upside down suet feeder.  The chickadees, nuthatches, titmouse and woodpeckers will still be able to reach the suet, but the grackles do not have the ability to hang upside down.

You mentioned you want to attract finches, so make sure you have a thistle/nyjer feeder for finches.  You may also attract some sparrows with this feeder.  Our Black-throated Sparrows use our feeder all year round.  Our Pine Siskins and Goldfinches will be leaving us for the summer.  They will return after their breeding season, however some years they may not return until close to Christmas.  The best time to attract the finches is in the fall.  If you put your feeder up in early spring, the birds have probably established a routine for visiting feeders and will probably not be looking for new feeders.   Be sure to have your feeders up in late August or September depending on where you live.

You may want to learn more about attracting finches to your yard by checking out this article on the subject.   I hope this helps you solve your problems, but remember that we cannot always pick and choose who stops at our feeders.  If the grackles are migrating take comfort in the fact they will be gone in a few weeks.

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