Backyard Chirper

PREPARE FOR SPRING SALE ends 2/29/24! $10 off your next purchase of $100 or more. Code: PREPSPRING10

How to Deal with Grackles at Bird Feeders

Photo by Timothy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Timothy Kirkpatrick

No one likes a bully and no bird is a bigger bully than the Common Grackle. The large blackbirds have huge appetites, travel in big flocks and often take over bird feeders—eating everything they can get their beaks on.

The range of Common Grackles covers a hefty portion of the eastern United States and during migration season, they move in rapacious flocks that cause nothing but headaches and money.

Here are some things you can do to stop them from taking over your feeders.

Get feeders with small or collapsible perches

Dealing with Common Grackles is similar to dealing with squirrels: they both want to raid your feeders and will do anything to do it. Fortunately, both have many of the same weaknesses. The first is their size. By getting a feeder with a perch that closes when too much weight is on it, you can keep out grackles and squirrels. The smaller and more desirable birds will still be able to get in, however. An example of this is the Heritage Farms Absolute II Squirrel-Proof Feeder.

If you don’t want a squirrel-proof feeder, you can also just get a feeder with small perches designed only for songbirds. Grackles will be too large to grab a hold of the perches and won’t be able to eat the seed.

Put a cage around your feeders

Another squirrel-proof device that’s equally effective on grackles is a mesh cage. Flocks of hungry grackles can easily devour suet and empty feeders in a matter of minutes, but they are much too large to get through the cage feeders designed to keep out squirrels. Again, smaller birds will still be able to get through the compartments in the cage.

Avoid tray and hopper feeders

When you see that flock of grackles coming into your yard, you should immediately pack up your feeders that are easy to land on until the grackles move on. Tray and hopper feeders are essentially platters for grackles to feast. You don’t have to take the feeders down permanently, just until the grackles are no longer coming around.

Use black oil sunflower seeds to reduce spillage

Although you may be able to keep grackles from raiding your feeders, they may also be eating all the spilled seed on the ground. Birds can be pretty messy and dump much of the seed they don’t like on the ground. To help birds avoid making a mess and attracting grackles, put black oil sunflower seeds into the feeder because birds will eat everything and won’t spill very much.

Common_Grackle_(Quiscalus_quiscula)_(7272585314)Try using safflower seeds in feeders

Alternatively, grackles do not like safflower seeds very much, but birds like chickadees and nuthatches do. Grackles are not necessarily the pickiest eaters, so they might still eat safflower in certain situations, however.

If you can’t beat them, enjoy them

Unlike European Starlings and House Sparrows, Common Grackles are native to North America and can be quite beautiful to look at. They have iridescent plumage and unique calls. If they’re in your yard during a migration stopover, try to enjoy them for a little bit and they’ll be out of your hair in a few weeks.

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.

21 Comments

  1. We have massive amounts of Grackles (sorry, hate them, they push other song birds away) yes, bullies, big time!!
    Please give me an idea for a Grackle proof suet holder?? never had such a problem and we have a Ivory billed Woodpecker family here (haven’t seen since I was a child )
    The Grackles are making it hard for them to get their suet..the Woodpeckers are so beautiful and HUGE..need to find a way to “Grackle proof” the suet. Thanks, Judi

  2. Grackles have a tough time hanging upside down, unlike woodpeckers. A good grackle-resistant suet feeder is any upside down suet feeder like the one here: https://www.backyardchirper.com/bird-house-184984.html.

  3. Good luck with the grackles(we call them rat birds). I have spent hundreds of dollars on every suet feeder imaginable and they still devour my suet. Even the double cage feeders don’t keep them out. They simply stretch their ugly necks thru it like a giraffe. They also hang upside down. If you found something, please let me know.

  4. Try an upside down suet plug log. I have an issue with starlings and they aren’t able to grab a foothold. Though they still hover and peck. Grackles never tried it. Also, I purchased a 30 dollar cage from wild birds unlimited. It encases my wbu stacker feeder which has nuts, seeds, and suet. The grackles cannot reach far enough in and neither can grackles or squirrels, and my small woodpeckers love it. Lastly, try a Erva brand caged suet feeder. Those offer ample room between the wire and feeder.

  5. what size openings in wire cage will let cardinals in but keep grackles out?

  6. Tom, if you ever found an answer to your question, I would appreciate it very much if you can share it with me! Cardinals and woodpeckers nest here at my home on the Maumee River, and I don’t want to chase them away. I also am blessed with many song birds, including various Finches, Baltimore Orioles, Tanagers, Warblers, Gnatcatchers, Vireos, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Shrikes, Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, Flycatchers, including Rose-throated Becard…and others. The grackles are numerous and rude! Any info would be appreciated!
    Thank you, …Nikki, of Grand Rapids, Ohio

  7. Nikki, I too would love to find the answer to Tom’s question!

  8. YES, I ALSO WOULD LOVE THE ANSWER!! I’m in Ohio also. Grackles, Starlings, and the smaller mean little red squirrels are driving me insane !!

  9. I’ve been looking for that answer too!
    I did find that the diameter of the hole for a grackled birdhouse should be 2 1/2 “.
    Can’t find the diameter of a cardinal’s birdhouse because they nest in open 3 sided structures with no front.
    Grackles have run most of the birds away at my feeder. First year this has happened since I’ve had the feeder. I had to put 1/2” mesh wire over the hopper to keep them from throwing the seeds everywhere. Know they have to pick the seeds through the mesh. It has slowed down their seed consumption.

  10. I have one exactly like that and they have learned to cling upside down from it. They can’t for a long tme but they are still able to eat large amounts of the suet and also keeps the desirable birds away. I have tried hanging it lower and that works better but still are persistent enough to hang manage to hang onto it. I have finally “baffled ” the squirrels but the blackbirds and grackles are still a problem.

  11. I too have that problem and gut response but am taking a different approach. Unlike plants where distinguishing weed from not-weed is a personal choice, animals are different in that moving, feeling and thinking lives are at stake. If there’s no objective reason to shun one species to favor another then it’s my attitude that needs modification and not my feeder. If you disagree then do so after at least having considered this point. But do realize that if you come around to this way of thinking, you get the benefit of not having to fret over grackles or spend money and time ridding your feeder of them.

  12. We are getting a second mortgage on our home to feed the grackles, or rather, satisfy the grackles so other birds will feed too.

  13. There is no cage that will allow a cardinal and not a grackle. The best way to feed cardinals and not grackles is to use safflower. Safflower is the only seed I use in the spring and summer months along with nyjer feeders for the goldfiches

  14. Totally agree with you. A 40lbs bag of decent quality food is about the same price as ONE bird feeder. So instead of buying 6 new feeders, I bought a 6 bags of food and I am feeding all God’s creatures visiting my backyard!

  15. Safflower, cages etc etc… I am actually feeding them in a different corner of the backyard, the way they like it: landing area, large tray, their favorite food. As long as they find what they need, they can be “trained” to leave the other birds alone. And I learned to enjoy their presence as well: the blue head and the piercing yellow eyes are quite beautiful.

  16. I have a feeder that that will close , setting it to abirds weight.(it came with a bird weight chart). Grackles stand on the hinges on eiher end of perch. These birds are smart.
    I give up!

  17. I’ve tried to embrace them, tried to feed them in different areas, I appreciate all God’s creators but I absolutely detest these birds. I now have a massive flock and i have not a single songbird (I have 20 feeders and typically have a beautiful array of birds) woodpecker or any other species away my feeders, they bullied them all away. All feeders they’ve found ways into no matter what. I’m all for appreciating all creatures great and small but at 20 bucks a bag, seed isn’t that cheap. I’ve baffled them, taking perches away, nothing in my backyard will eat safflower seed, nothing! so that was a waste, I’ve now been forced to remove all my feeders until they go away. If someone actually finds something that works please let me know. They adapt to upside feeders, find ways into cages and are clinging to feeders with no perches.

  18. Don’t fight them. I know you’re right. However…………………………they’re eating me out of house and home!

  19. I like the photo, but I should… since I shot it.

  20. Excellent attitude. I do not like Grackles bullying others birds out of my feeder but, the purpose of bird feeders is to feed birds! regardless of which come to eat or not. So, I am changing my attitude. Whoever wants to come and eat will be fine for me. Grackles don’t stay long anyway. Hopefully my Blue Jays and Cardinals don’t stop coming because of them.

  21. Haaaaaaaaa! I relate!

Comments are closed.