3 Ways To Keep GRACKLES Away From Feeders! (2023)
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.
Audubon caged tube feeder Check Price - Amazon
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. 🙂
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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.
Birds Choice Upside-Down Suet Feeder View $ on Amazon
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.
A. Perky-Pet Yellow Finch Feeder
B. Aspects Quick-Clean Nyjer Feeder
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!
My two cents. When grackles are a problem I only put out safflower and nyjer seed. Bear in mind though that some birds don’t like safflower and those that do (Cardinals, Grosbeaks, House Finches, Chickadees, in my experience) may not go for it straight away, especially if they have become accustomed to black oil sunflower seed. Definitely take down suet feeders. ‘Upside Down’ suet feeders may help to deter grackles initially but they are persistent, highly acrobatic birds and soon figure out how to cling on long enough to dislodge chunks. If all else fails consider taking down all feeders for a short while and hope they move on.
How to keep the squirrels out of your feeder:
Materials needed 10′ long 4″ diameter PVC post – Home Depot PVC pipe
3-4 foot long aluminum or wooden dowl(aluminum will last for ever) the diameter of a broom
Bird feeder that will hang from the dowl.
About 6 inches from one end of the PVC post drill a hole into both sides of the post so the the broom stick sized
post will fit through the PVC post creating a roosting spot.
Dig a hole for the PVC pipe. Be mind full not to position the post next to a tree or anything else your squirrels can climb. If your soil is soft you can actually drive the post into the ground with out digging.
Once your PVC post is in the ground slide the dowel through the already drilled holes in the top of the post. Make sure the dowel fits snug in the holes.
You now have a feeding station for your bird friends that your squirrel buddies cannot climb you will find that the birds and squirrels can live and feed together.
Grackles will feed up side down on a suet cake. Seen it happen. Now if you can also come up with a way to keep the wild parrots out of the feeder. It is like a flash mob!
this was terrific information. keeping grackles and strings at bay is on my wishlist.
I have a weight-activated absolute feeder but I can’t seem to get exactly the right adjustment for the jays to eat without a complete shut-down. there are only three options for weight choice and I think I need to do some self-adjusting retrofits. any thoughts? also: anyone know the best buy for safflower and sunflower seeds in bulk? I store seeds in metal lidded cans so I can order large quantities to save money. those little friends eat as much as a teenage boy!
Wow! I guess I’m lucky, I’ve never seen a grackle, starling, or house sparrow at my feeders before. Lots of squirrels though! 🙂
Grackles are smarter than this…. they have figured out how to use the upside down and caged suet feeders… they also learn how to use the weight sensitive feeders.. if they like the food, they will learn how to get to it no matter what you do… the options of food they don’t like such as safflower seeds and Nyjer is best bet… decoy cheap seeds close by just keeps them around to harass other birds … best to feed the orioles, hummingbirds and those songbirds that eat safflower, nyjer seeds, until the grackles fly south… which they tend to do earlier than the others…
Thanks for the info. I switched to Nyjer and Safflower seed only but there’s very little action at my feeders compared to when I had the fruit and berry suet out. So far only a few cardinals, morning doves and song sparrows showed interest. But the grackles have moved on which was the goal.
Be nicer to the squirrels.
I also tell them shoo Lolita only a temporary fix though and I can’t watch them all day. They scare off my finches, woodpeckers and cardinals. Huge bummer! They did eat my sunflower suet block though which was nice since none of the other birds liked it.
I take an umbrella 🌂 and wave it above my head yelling ‘shoo you rascals’. Works every time!
I like the grackles 😂. I tolerate it because they tend to move on. But I do try to feed cracked corn around the property to try to break up the numbers.
How about the American Cow Bird. Its a pest too??
Hello! We wanted to keep the squirrels away from the birdfeeder so we bought Cole’s BHO5 Blazing Hot birdseed from Amazon. And it’s working to keep the squirrels away, but the BLACKBIRDS must love it. They are taking over the backyard!! We have 2 small dogs that get dive-bombed by them! What do you suggest we do??
There is a large pond next door to us and the red-winged blackbirds raise their babies and stay for the summer. They bully EVERYone. They dive bomb Canada geese, ducks, herons, any other bird, turtles. If an eagle showed up, I am sure they would drive it away. They start “singing” at 4am and never stop till dark, which can be as late as 10pm. The first couple years, I so enjoyed watching them. Haha! They don’t come to my bird feeders, thank goodness.
The grackles I don’t mind so much, it’s the red-winged black bird that torments all of the other birds. They bully the finches and my woodpeckers. Great info and thank you!
That was a lot of great information. Thank you.