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How to Deal With Bully Birds at Your Feeders

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Image by Vkulikov

We’ve all seen it happen at one time or another. A small chickadee is quietly and gently eating some seed from your feeder when out of nowhere a noisy Blue Jay comes swooping in and scares off the chickadee.

It’s a dog eat dog world out there (or should we say bird eat bird), but you don’t have to stand for larger more aggressive birds scaring off the smaller more gentler species.

If you’re having a problem with bully birds, here are some ways you can discourage them.

Types of Bully Birds

When a bird feeder is crowded, sometimes birds will fight with each other to get a space at the feeding port. This doesn’t necessarily mean the victor is a bully bird. Bully birds will regularly and aggressively push out other birds to feed. You know you have a problem when several bully birds are eating at your feeder so much that your other birds aren’t getting any food.

The species you might already suspect as being bullies are the most frequent offenders. Here’s a partial list.

  • House_sparrow_branch.closeupCrows
  • Pigeons
  • Blue Jays
  • Grackles
  • House Sparrows
  • Cowbirds
  • Starlings
  • Doves

These birds typically spend a fair amount of time at feeders building up their cache or sometimes a flock of birds will mob feeders.

If you have bully birds frequenting your feeder, here are some things you can do.

1. Get feeders with small perches

From the list of offenders, you can see that the birds are usually on the bigger side. Feeders with smaller perches that can only accommodate birds of a certain size are an easy way to get rid of larger birds like jays and grackles. Many tube feeders have the ability to shorten perches if needed.

2. Opt for collapsible perches

Along the same lines as the previous suggestion, a collapsible feeder will accomplish the same thing, but you have more control over it. Many squirrel-proof feeders feature collapsible perches that will give way when a certain amount of pressure is put on it. These can typically be adjusted for squirrels only or even larger birds. An example of one of these feeders is the Vari-Crafts Bouncer Squirrel-Proof Feeder.

3. Put a cage around the feeder

Many of the solutions for squirrels also work great for bully birds. The space between the bars of a cage feeder is just big enough to allow most birds access while being too small for squirrels and bully birds. Check out some of the wire cage feeders available.

4141524. Use seed catchers

One of the biggest factors for drawing in bully birds is the mess underneath feeders. Since many of the bully birds feed off the ground, simply adding a seed catcher beneath your feeder will decrease the mess. (It’ll also have the added benefit of keeping your yard tidy and potential rodents far away.)

5. Do away with tray feeders and ground feeding

As previously stated, bully birds are more likely to feed off the ground and tray feeders/ground feeding provide access to easy food. By removing these types of feeders, even for a little while, the birds will move on to a more accessible food source. You can put them back up later.

6. Practice selective feeding

Some bully birds can be surprisingly picky eaters. They prefer corn, millet, sunflower seeds, and cheaper food. Foods that bully birds usually don’t like include safflower seeds and Nyjer seed. Fortunately, these are two types of foods that smaller birds really enjoy.

7. Use upside down suet feeder

Suet is a favorite food of many bully birds, but an easy way to stop them from eating all the suet is to use an upside down feeder. Woodpeckers, unlike starlings, have the ability to eat while hanging upside down, so getting a specially designed upside down feeder will leave bully birds high and dry.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.

12 Comments

  1. Your comment was the best. God bless and try to remember God made them too. I also just try to scare them off. I work from home and my office overlooks the entire back yard so I can keep an eye on all my feeders. I noticed putting food out there early in morning ensures everyone eats before the bully birds come in late morning and afternoon when I used to put food out. I also have separate squirrel feeders installed on the trees where I supply nuts and corn on cob for them, they don’t bother the bird feeders anymore. I actually adore the squirrels and chipmunks. I leave food just for them and they don’t steal bird seeds anymore. The peanut butter suet is well, everyone’s favorite. It’s all gone in one day. Frustrating but what can u do. I buy when I can and do my best. At very least there is always bird seeds and nuts for squirrels .

  2. we are getting hit with hordes of crackles and blackburds .mean nasty agressive..even slammed against my window at me while i was praying!!! i went outside to yell and 2 came at me physically!!! we are working on a few things..first what they seem to hate is those loud whistles to use when you are being robbed..they take off…some came back but not the 100 or so..also a clicker..and little metal thing that makes a loud clicking noise..they hate that too and take off in droves..next we are going to try a super water soaker and spray the living heck out of them…after than heard about mylar baloon that works…also cages for smaller birds as all our beautiful small birds are scared to death of these monsters right out of hell!!! good luck everyone and GOD BLESS!!! shooting is not a good idea..as rotten as they are……

  3. i have a Solitary Vireo that chasing ALL birds from my feeders & berry bearing shrubs!! I have tried everything to chase him away but to no avail……..any solutions pls let me know

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