Bully Birds Are Back

Bully Birds Are Back

With Spring in full bloom came an abundance of bully birds: grackles, starling, crows and their offspring. But with the summer holidays in full swing, they seemed to follow the vacationers and there was peace and quiet at the feeders and no excessive bird droppings to clean from the waterfall and pond edges. But nothing lasts forever!

Following a couple of northern flickers through the grass the other morning, trying to get a good shot of them, the grass suddenly came to life. I had disturbed a flock of blackbirds, starlings and grackles. It all makes sense now as to why there is so much seed scattered under the feeders and they can be filled twice a day.

It is upsetting to see these bigger birds chasing away goldfinches, juncos or chickadees from the bird feeders. These so called “bully birds” that include crows, blue jays (not bullies in my opinion), grackles, starlings, and sometimes, even mourning doves, are aggressive and intimidating to smaller songbirds.

So after some searching, I found these steps to take to reduce or eliminate the bully birds from eating all the food.

  • Control With Feeder Styling

    Bully birds are almost always larger than those being bullied, and by enclosing the feeders in large mesh hardware cloth or chicken wire, only the small birds can enter the feeding area. These caged feeders, that are also sold commercially, will keep squirrels out, as well.

    Feeders with the weighted perches will keep out the bigger birds whose own weight lowers a bar over the food slots. And tube feeders with the perches above the port holes require the birds to lean down to feed, which will eliminate the bullies.

    Starlings can be discouraged from eating suet, one of their favorite foods, by hanging the suet feeder under a domed squirrel baffle. Starling don’t like going up and under for food. There is also a special starling proof suet feeder that can only be approached by birds from underneath, which starlings don’t like, either.

  • Selective Feeding

    Selective feeding is another way to control the kinds of birds that pillage feeders. Generally, bully birds prefer bread, corn, millet, wheat and sunflower seeds. To get rid of them, supply food they won’t eat.

    To feed finches, fill hanging tube feeders with only nyjer seed (thistle). For cardinals, chickadees and nuthatches, provide safflower seed in hopper or tray feeders. If you do this, grackles, crows and blackbirds generally will look elsewhere for the foods they like.

  • Cast-Off Seeds

    Some backyard birders have the greatest problems with bully birds that eat the cast-off seeds below hanging and post feeders. Pigeons are notorious for gathering in flocks underneath feeders for their meals.

    The solution for this problem is to collect the fallen seeds in a deep container, such as a plastic garbage can or pail, that the pest birds cannot or will not get into. You can make a hole in the center of the container and place it right on your feeder pole.

With that being said, I will have to change back to the “Squirrel Free Blend” for the time being and use a squirrel proof feeder for the sunflower, peanuts and corn. I chuckle at the thought of using pails or garbage cans, unless tastefully decorated.

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