10 NATURAL WAYS TO KEEP GRACKLES AND OTHER BIRD-BULLIES AWAY FROM YOUR BIRD FEEDER
Grackles, from the blackbird family, are beautiful birds to watch. They shimmer in the sun with their iridescent blues, purple and greens like peacocks showing off. They are also super smart and fascinating to watch in flight. Their tails round up and turn into a rudder, steering them as they fly.
Some grackles don’t migrate but remain in their warm territories year round, especially in Southeast states such as Texas and Florida. But some do fly up north-east during the spring where they can be seen in urban and suburban areas. By summer - they are everywhere!
Many define grackles, starlings and pigeons, as pests. Crop growers see their fields being damaged by crows and blackbirds. Homeowners see them as bullies. Grackles scare their beloved songbirds from their bird feeders and steal their food.
We at Nature Anywhere don’t believe in inhumane treatments such as poison and lethal traps. Crop growers commonly use poison as well as other harmful chemicals to “get rid” of the grackles. But not only is it inhumane, it also doesn’t work. Grackles have the power of numbers. Poisoning birds who roam in large flocks is a lost battle.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO…..?
Fear not. Much study and research has been done to find effective solutions to this problem. And at the same time - keep it humane.
1. Build a cage around the bird feeder
To keep grackles, pigeons and other unwanted visitors away, we have to make our backyards less attractive and offer less or limited access to food. Putting bird feeders inside cages like in the video below or any other way - keeps the bullies out. No matter how much they try, grackles won’t be able to reach the seeds inside the cage. Once they realize this garden has nothing to offer - they will fly away never to return, knowing that there are no attractions for them here.
This leaves the field clear for the smaller songbirds we want to attract, such as chickadees, finches and cardinals, who will be able to sneak through the cage holes and feed. In addition, they will feel safer knowing that they have less competition with bigger birds - especially from bullies like grackles.
2. Choose the hours you feed
Take the bird feeders away for most of the day. If pigeons, starlings and grackles know food is available all day long, they will just enjoy the open buffet. But if you take the feeders in and only put them out from 15:00 or 16:00 till around 21:00 when you take them in again, your songbirds will get used to these hours but the grackles and their likes will give up and look for other permanent available food sources.
3. Go for the Hummingbird or Finch feeders
Hummingbird feeders, as well as finch bird feeders have ports that are way too small for the grackles, pigeons or starlings. This will frustrate them and make them look for lunch elsewhere. And we will be left with our friends! A win-win for us and for them.
4. Shorten the perches on your tube feeders
Smaller birds, like goldfinches, chickadees and titmice will be able to feed, as they can stand on the shortened perches or even just cling on with their claws. Sometimes you can take a hammer and shorten existing long perches by tapping them to take them off or to make them shorter. Grackles, larger and bulkier, will find it hard to perch and will have to give up and fly away.
If starlings are eating all your suet, try a feeder that requires birds to stand upside down. Chickadees, for instance, can feed upside down but for the blackbirds it’s an impossible feat - and a good way to keep them away.
5. Alter seed offerings!
Grackles and starlings prefer bread, corn, millet, wheat and sunflower seeds. To get rid of them, supply food they don’t like, such as thistle and nyjer seed loved by finches or safflower seeds enjoyed by cardinals, chickadees and nuthatches. Grackles, pigeons and blackbirds will then have to turn to other sources for food.
Many homeowners use plastic eagles perched on their roofs which often does the trick. But with time, grackles can get used to them and understand that they are not a threat. Grackles are smart cookies!
So a good solution is - go fly a kite!
Flying a threatening-looking kite is a good bird scarer with the added bonus of a fun experience to enjoy with the kids and grandkids! If you tie the kite to a tree or anything stable, grackles will think that a predator is nearby and will flee.
Whichever model you choose, make sure it’s made of durable materials so it doesn't disconnect and fly away with the wind. Some kites come with telescopic poles with adjustable lengths especially to help to keep grackles off your property.
7. Clean garden - fewer grackles
When bird feeders are no longer an option, grackles, pigeons and crows will turn to the next best thing: leftovers which have dropped from the feeders.
So spring and summer are the times to start cleaning your yard on a regular basis. Make sure there are no leftovers or any extra seeds on the ground.
Grackles will go as far as eat your pet food (it’s not bad for them) or even tear your garbage bags. So keep the animal food safely sheltered and garbage bags well tucked in the garbage bins.
8. Liquid bird repellent
Most bird repellent liquids contain methyl-anthranilate which is a smelly and bitter stimulant that triggers the birds’ cranial nerves and causes them to fly away, never to return.
Apply the liquid on areas where fruit and other food sources tend to fall and attract grackles.
Some grackles like to sit on the sides of houses and even rooftops, you could use the solution in these places as well. And don’t worry. This is a humane way of removing grackles from your yard. Yes, it will disgust and deter them, but it will not cause them harm.
The liquid also is effective for geese, pigeons, crows, ducks, blackbirds, seagulls, sparrows and cormorants among others.
9. The sound of repelling
We keep coupling grackles with starlings because both are bullies and also because they tend to flock together. That means large flocks in our gardens. Yikes!
Other than liquid deterrents, there are also sound repellents!
Some sound repellents can combine the specific frequency that is audible to these “bullies” and coupled with reflective eye diverters or the sounds of predators, should do the trick.
Most repellents, though, come with just the ultrasonic facility.
Different birds have different audible frequencies. Pigeons, blackbirds and grackles usually hear the same frequencies, so using an ultrasonic bird repellent, if customised properly, will not deter other smaller birds.
Most of these devices are easy to use, especially since they tend to rely on solar panels to do their job.
Looking for something for right now? Try putting this sound on really loud in the garden:
10. Alter the habitat in your yard
Grackles love to nest in thick hedges. So covering hedges with bird netting might keep them away during breeding season.
An extra tip: Never buy seed mixes containing milo
Blackbirds are the only birds that seem to like milo! Not only do songbirds not eat these seeds, milo is actually a cheap seed filler that can cause them harm - which is why our bird seeds never contain milo.
A good choice to keep the bird-bullies away is to use safflower seeds only. Grackles will turn their noses up at it if served alone, while cardinals, finches, chickadees, titmice and jays will happily munch on it, as well as wrens, downy woodpeckers and nuthatches.
At the end of the day, we are trying to keep grackles away. But if they should return, remember: they are beautiful to look at, they keep insects away from our lawns (a third of their diet is insects) - and they keep sparrows away!
Let us know how these tips helped you!
Happy summer, folks.
Here's a video of a Blue Jay and a Grackle in a duel! Guess who wins...?