Most of us enjoy hosting a variety of birds at our feeders. However, the common grackle one bird that is not always a welcomed guest in our backyards.
The common grackle is one of the larger birds that frequent our feeders. Common grackles measure anywhere from 12-12.5 inches in length. This makes them three to four times larger than a finch. I often hear people say the common grackle uses its large size and threatening bill to bully other smaller birds away from feeding nearby. This does not endear it to people that enjoy watching other birds partake in their feeder offerings.
If that is not enough to turn public opinion against them, the bird has an appetite that matches its size. A single grackle can eat a huge amount of food in a very short period to time. This problem is especially acute when a flock of wintering grackles descends on our feeders. As anybody that feeds birds knows, a flock of grackles can wipe out a feeder full of black oil sunflower seeds in a matter of minutes.
They also love suet. I personally have seen them devour a cake of suet in a single afternoon.
Whenever I make presentations dealing with bird feeding people often ask, “How can I deal with this problem?”
Although there is no perfect solution to this dilemma, here is a list of a few of the ways in which you can deal with common grackles devouring too much food are your feeders.
When grackles arrive, stop feeding birds on feeding trays and hoppers. Grackles seem to prefer feeding at flat, open feeders and feeders equipped with large perches. Replace them with tube feeders with short perches. You can also purchase feeders with removable perches, which prevent larger birds from using them. Feeders surrounded with wire cages are also available. These wire barriers prevent larger birds from taking seeds from the feeder standing in the middle of the cage.
During times when grackles are a problem, begin offering foods that grackles do not like. For example, avoid feeding scratch feed or mixed seed containing a high percentage of cracked corn, milo, wheat, and oats. Since grackles avoid nyger and safflower seeds, feature them at your feeders.
There are a couple of ways to deal with suet. I simply remove suet when grackles become a problem. However, suet can also be placed in feeders suspended in wire cages, or use feeders that require birds to feed while hanging upside down.
Fortunately, in my neck of the woods, common grackles do not pose a problem until the first couple of weeks in February roll around. When the birds do make their annual appearance, I activate my grackle action plan. If everything goes well, grackles do not hang around too long and I can resume my regular feeding regime.