Are you looking for ways to prevent grackles at your bird feeders?
If so, you are not alone! Many people struggle with these blackbirds and try to find ways to limit the amount of them at their feeding stations.
Personally, I don’t think grackles are so bad when they show up individually. They are fascinating to watch and also very beautiful with their iridescent plumage.
My biggest complaint with grackles is how they can show up in large flocks and overrun feeding stations. (Press PLAY below to see my feeders under attack!)
Below are 3 proven ways to help keep grackles away from your feeders!
I’ve personally used all of the strategies to help control these blackbirds in my backyard. 🙂
#1. Use these 3 foods (which grackles DON’T eat)
A great way to keep grackles away from your bird feeders is to use foods they don’t enjoy eating.
But unfortunately, that’s easier said than done! These generalists eat a wide variety of common bird seeds. Seriously, if you offer sunflower seeds, peanuts, or corn, you are asking for an entire flock of grackles to visit. 🙂
Here are 3 foods that grackles don’t eat (or don’t love eating)!
A. Safflower seeds
Some people call safflower the miracle seed! Grackles, along with starlings, squirrels, and other blackbird species, don’t particularly care for safflower seeds. They may sample it, but they aren’t going to gorge themselves at your feeders.
But the best part is that most other feeder birds, such as cardinals, jays, and chickadees, eat it willingly. Whenever I have a major invasion of grackles, my feeders are immediately filled with safflower seed!
B. Nyjer seeds
Nyjer seed is very tiny and used primarily to attract finches. This seed is too small for grackles to bother with. In addition, the feeders used to distribute Nyjer seeds typically have tiny openings, which are too small for a grackle to fit their beak inside!
C. Nectar in my hummingbird feeder
Grackles shouldn’t bother or try to eat from your nectar feeders. For those of us who live in colder regions, this tip only applies in summer when the hummingbirds are back.
Unfortunately, as you can see, the list of foods that grackles won’t eat is minimal. So be careful with your food selection because they will go crazy if you offer sunflower seeds, peanuts, corn, millet, or suet. In addition, grackles love grains, which are common in “cheap” birdseed mixes.
#2. Try these feeders (which grackles CAN’T use)
One of my favorite ways to keep grackles away from my feeders is to use feeders that are hard or impossible for them to use!
Unfortunately, the negative to these types of feeders is that other birds that are roughly the same size will also have difficulties. For example, if a grackle can’t use a feeder, then backyard favorites like Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays will also have problems.
Here are 5 types of feeders that prevent grackles:
Feeder #1: Caged bird feeders
With this style, a metal cage encloses the feeder. The square openings are small enough to keep grackles (and squirrels) away but big enough to let most smaller songbirds through to feed. I LOVE watching grackles grasp onto the outside of the cage and only be able to look at the delicious food inside. 🙂
The caged tube feeder below is the one I use. My chickadees and goldfinches use it daily. And since only small birds have access to the seed, I don’t have to refill it often, usually only twice per week! However, similar-sized tube feeders that are not surrounded by a cage in my backyard must be refilled daily.
I also use a caged bird feeder to protect my suet! This caged feeder is an excellent solution if grackles won’t leave your suet feeders alone.
Grackles are unable to fit their bodies through the outer cage to get to the suet. Smaller woodpeckers, like Downy Woodpeckers, have no problems fitting inside. But, unfortunately, larger woodpeckers won’t be able to get to the suet.
Feeder #2: Weight-sensitive feeders
These types of feeders can typically be adjusted to close when a certain amount of weight is applied. Grackles are relatively heavy when compared to other backyard feeder birds, so the concept is that when they land on the feeder, access to the food will close. But smaller birds should still be able to sit and feed.
For example, I own the Absolute II hopper bird feeder below, and it’s one of my favorite overall feeders. And it’s also great at stopping squirrels. 🙂
Let me be clear; a weight-sensitive feeder WON’T stop grackles like a caged feeder. But the hope is that you will slow down an entire flock of grackles.
For example, on the Absolute II feeder above, I can make the perches incredibly sensitive to weight, where only one medium-sized bird (like a grackle) can feed at a time. As soon as a second grackle tries to hop on the perch, the feeder closes.
I love this feeder because only ONE (or maybe two) grackles can eat at a time. It’s great because a whole flock of grackles can’t sit there and wipe out all of your food in a sitting.
Feeder #3: Upside-down suet feeders
I thoroughly enjoy feeding suet to woodpeckers in my backyard. The problem is that grackles also LOVE eating suet.
One way around this is to purchase a suet feeder that forces birds to cling and feed upside down. Woodpeckers have no problem with this method, but grackles CAN’T eat like this.
My upside-down suet feeder has done a great job preventing grackles from devouring all my suet. Lastly, I want to warn you that it may take some time for woodpeckers to discover your upside-down suet feeder. And overall, they don’t like it as much as my other suet feeders, where they don’t have to hang upside down.
Feeder #4: Feeders with SMALL food ports
Ok, let’s quickly take a look at a grackle’s beak. As you can see, it’s pretty large!
So, to help prevent them at our feeders, we will take advantage of this fact. To keep grackles away, try using bird feeders with very small feeding ports. A feeding port is where the food comes out of a feeder. If it’s very small, a grackle can’t fit its beak inside to get the food!
Below are two great examples that I own.
Typically, feeders with small food ports are marketed as “Nyjer seed feeders” since that is one of the only foods that can fit through the small opening. In addition to Nyjer seed, you can also try using finely chopped sunflower kernels. Many times these small pieces will fit through the openings.
Feeder #5: Hummingbird feeders
Hummingbird feeders are grackle-proof because these birds don’t drink nectar!
Trust me; grackles will ignore your hummingbird feeders.
#3. Distract grackles by feeding them separately!
The hope is that the grackles will bombard your “extra” feeding station, leaving your main area clear for the songbirds you actually want to see and attract.
This strategy can help spread birds around your yard. I use it every winter to help control the grackles, along with the European Starlings and House Sparrows that show up! The picture below, taken from my backyard, helps demonstrate this strategy!
As you can see, my tube feeder filled with cracked corn is placed behind and away from my other feeders.
How do you keep grackles away from your bird feeders?
Let us know which strategies work best for you below!