How to Keep Grackles, Blackbirds, and Starlings Away from Bird Feeders

This article, “How to Keep Grackles, Blackbirds, and Starlings Away from Bird Feeders,” offers valuable insights into getting rid of these larger and voracious birds that often disrupt the peacefulness of bird feeders. With their ability to form large flocks and their insatiable appetites, grackles, blackbirds, and starlings can quickly empty feeders and intimidate smaller birds. The article provides four effective strategies to deter these birds, including changing the type of feeders used, altering the foods fed to birds, modifying bird houses in the yard, and implementing home maintenance techniques. By following these methods and being patient, readers can create a more tranquil bird feeder environment while enjoying the beauty of smaller feathered visitors.

Types of Feeders

Tube Feeders

Tube feeders are a popular choice for bird enthusiasts as they are known to attract a wide variety of bird species. These feeders consist of a cylindrical tube with multiple feeding ports. The design of the tube feeder allows for birds to perch and access the seeds inside. The enclosed design also helps to keep the bird seeds dry, making it a great option for all weather conditions. Additionally, tube feeders can be equipped with perches or metal guards to prevent larger birds, such as grackles and blackbirds, from accessing the seeds.

Squirrel-proof Hopper Feeders

Squirrel-proof hopper feeders are specially designed to prevent squirrels and larger birds from devouring all the bird food. These feeders typically feature weight-activated mechanisms that close the feeding ports when a squirrel or a heavy bird lands on them. This ensures that only smaller birds have access to the food, giving them a chance to feed without competition from larger and more aggressive birds. Squirrel-proof hopper feeders are typically made of metal or durable plastic, and their sturdy design makes them resistant to damage.

Cage Feeders

Cage feeders are an effective solution for keeping larger birds at bay while still providing smaller birds with ample feeding opportunities. These feeders consist of a wire mesh cage that surrounds the feeding ports, allowing only birds of a certain size to access the food. The cage acts as a barrier, preventing larger birds such as grackles, blackbirds, and starlings from reaching the seed. Cage feeders come in various sizes and designs, and they are typically easy to refill and clean.

Platform Feeders

Platform feeders are a versatile option for bird feeding, catering to a wide range of bird species. These feeders consist of a flat surface where bird seeds are spread out, allowing birds to feed from any direction. Platform feeders are typically mounted on posts or hung from branches, and they can attract a diverse mix of bird species. However, it is important to note that grackles, blackbirds, and starlings may be more likely to visit platform feeders due to the easy access to food. To deter these larger birds, placing a cage or guard around the platform feeder may be necessary.

Weight-Activated Feeders

Weight-activated feeders are a clever option for deterring larger birds while still providing a feeding space for smaller birds. These feeders are designed with perches or feeding ports that close off when a certain weight is applied. When a larger bird or squirrel lands on the feeder, the weight activates the mechanism and closes off the access to the food. This ensures that only lighter birds can access the seeds, making it more difficult for grackles, blackbirds, and starlings to dominate the feeder. Weight-activated feeders are typically made of durable materials such as metal and are often squirrel-proof as well.

Feeding Strategies

Use Single Types of Bird Seed

Using single types of bird seed is a simple yet effective strategy to deter grackles, blackbirds, and starlings. These larger birds are notorious for their voracious appetites and tendency to dominate bird feeders, often scaring away smaller birds. By using single types of bird seed, such as sunflower seeds or millet, you can limit the appeal to these larger birds. Smaller birds are more likely to enjoy and thrive on specific types of seeds, and by providing them with their preferred seed, you can create a feeding environment that is less attractive to grackles, blackbirds, and starlings.

Avoid Cheap Mixed Seeds

While it may be tempting to purchase cheap mixed seed blends, these can often attract unwanted birds such as grackles, blackbirds, and starlings. These birds are known to have a preference for certain types of seeds, such as sunflower seeds, and will pick through a mixed seed blend to find their favorites. This not only leads to wasted seed but also encourages the larger birds to dominate the feeder. By avoiding cheap mixed seeds and opting for higher-quality single seed types, you can create a feeding environment that is more appealing to smaller and more desirable bird species.

Offer Safflower Seeds

Safflower seeds are an excellent choice for deterring grackles, blackbirds, and starlings while still attracting other desirable bird species. These birds are generally not attracted to safflower seeds due to their bitter taste, making them a useful tool in discouraging their presence at the feeder. Smaller birds, such as cardinals, chickadees, and finches, are more likely to consume safflower seeds, ensuring that they have access to food without competition from larger and more dominant birds. It is important to note that it may take some time for birds to become accustomed to safflower seeds, so patience and persistence are key.

Provide Mealworms or Cracked Corn

In addition to using specific types of bird seed, offering mealworms or cracked corn can be an effective strategy for attracting smaller birds while discouraging grackles, blackbirds, and starlings. Mealworms are a highly nutritious food source for many bird species and are especially appealing to insect-eating birds such as bluebirds and wrens. By offering mealworms in a separate feeder or mixed with other bird seed, you can create a feeding opportunity that is more appealing to smaller birds. Cracked corn, on the other hand, is not a preferred food for grackles, blackbirds, and starlings, making it a less attractive option for these larger birds.

Use Nyjer/Thistle Seeds

Nyjer or thistle seeds are tiny black seeds that are highly sought after by goldfinches and other finch species. These seeds are smaller in size and require specialized feeders with small feeding ports. Due to their small size and specific feeding requirements, Nyjer seeds are less likely to attract grackles, blackbirds, and starlings. By incorporating Nyjer seed feeders into your setup, you can create a feeding opportunity that is tailored to finches and other small songbirds, reducing the likelihood of larger and more aggressive birds dominating the feeder.

How to Keep Grackles, Blackbirds, and Starlings Away from Bird Feeders

Bird Houses

Change Size of Nest Box Entry Holes

One effective way to prevent unwanted birds, such as starlings, from nesting in your yard is to modify the size of the nest box entry holes. Starlings are known to have a larger body size compared to other bird species, and they can easily enter standard-sized entry holes meant for smaller birds. By reducing the size of the entry holes, you create a barrier that prevents starlings from entering and occupying the nest boxes. Ideally, entry holes with a diameter of 1.25 inches are suitable for excluding starlings while still accommodating smaller bird species such as bluebirds and chickadees.

Remove Perches

Perches are often attached to bird houses to provide a resting place for birds before they enter or exit the nest box. However, perches can also attract unwanted birds, including starlings. These larger birds often use perches as an advantage, allowing them to easily occupy the nest and dominate the area. By removing perches from your bird houses, you eliminate a favored spot for starlings and discourage their presence. Smaller bird species are typically agile enough to enter the nest box without the aid of a perch, making it a suitable strategy for attracting desirable bird species while deterring unwanted visitors.

Home Maintenance

Seal Holes and Gaps in Siding

One way to prevent starlings and house sparrows from nesting in your home is to seal any holes and gaps in the siding. These birds are known to take advantage of small openings and make their way into attics and other protected spaces. By inspecting the exterior of your home and sealing any visible holes or gaps, you create a barrier that prevents these birds from entering and nesting. Use caulk or other appropriate sealants to fill in any openings, paying close attention to areas such as eaves, vents, and chimneys. Regularly inspecting and maintaining the integrity of your home’s exterior will reduce the likelihood of unwanted bird nesting.

Install Spikes or Netting

Another effective method of preventing bird nesting in certain areas is to install spikes or netting. These physical deterrents create barriers that make it difficult or impossible for birds to land and nest in specific locations. For example, installing bird spikes along ledges or other flat surfaces can prevent starlings and other large birds from perching and nesting. Additionally, netting can be used to cover openings such as crawl spaces or roof vents, preventing access to these areas. By implementing these deterrents strategically, you can effectively discourage birds from nesting in certain parts of your home or property.

Utilize Visual Deterrents

Visual deterrents can be a valuable tool in deterring birds from nesting in your home and property. These deterrents take advantage of birds’ natural instincts and aversions to certain objects or patterns. Common visual deterrents include scarecrows, reflective tapes, and predator decoys. Scarecrows and decoys mimic the presence of predators, providing a visual deterrent to birds. Reflective tapes create a flickering and disorienting effect when sunlight hits them, deterring birds from approaching. By strategically placing these visual deterrents around your property, you can create an environment that is less attractive to nesting birds.

How to Keep Grackles, Blackbirds, and Starlings Away from Bird Feeders

Understanding Grackles

Physical Characteristics

Grackles are larger birds belonging to the blackbird family. They have a shiny, iridescent black plumage with hints of purple or blue when sunlight reflects off their feathers. Grackles have long tails, slender bodies, and strong beaks that are slightly curved. Males are larger and more brightly colored than females. They are highly adaptable birds and can be found in a variety of habitats, including open fields, woodlands, and urban areas.

Behavior and Habits

Grackles are known for their social behavior and often gather in large flocks, especially during the non-breeding season. They are omnivorous birds, feeding on a wide range of foods including insects, fruits, seeds, and even small vertebrates. Grackles are also opportunistic and are known to take advantage of bird feeders, often dominating the feeding area and scaring off smaller birds. They have a loud and distinctive vocalization, which they use for communication within their flock.

Product Recommendations

To deter grackles from bird feeders, it is recommended to use feeders with smaller feeding ports, such as tube feeders with adjustable perches. These feeders make it more difficult for grackles to access the seeds and give smaller birds a chance to feed without competition. Additionally, using single types of bird seed that are less appealing to grackles, such as Nyjer seeds or safflower seeds, can help reduce their presence.

Understanding Blackbirds

Physical Characteristics

Blackbirds belong to the same family as grackles and have similar physical characteristics. They have a glossy black plumage with bright yellow eyes and a slender body. Male blackbirds typically have yellow markings on their wings and tail. They are slightly smaller than grackles but still larger than many other birds commonly seen at feeders.

Behavior and Habits

Blackbirds are highly social birds and often gather in large flocks, particularly during the non-breeding season. They are opportunistic feeders and will consume a variety of food sources, including insects, seeds, fruits, and even garbage. Blackbirds can quickly dominate bird feeders, scaring off smaller birds and emptying the feeders within minutes. They have a unique vocalization that can be loud and distinctive, especially when gathered in large numbers.

Product Recommendations

To deter blackbirds from dominating bird feeders, employing similar strategies used for grackles can be effective. Using feeders with smaller feeding ports, such as tube feeders, can make it more difficult for blackbirds to access the seeds. Offering single types of bird seed that are less attractive to blackbirds, such as safflower seeds or specialized finch blends, can also help reduce their presence. Additionally, using visual deterrents such as predator decoys or reflective tapes around the feeding area may discourage blackbirds from approaching.

How to Keep Grackles, Blackbirds, and Starlings Away from Bird Feeders

Understanding Starlings

Physical Characteristics

Starlings are medium-sized birds with a stocky build and short tails. They have a speckled black plumage with iridescent purple or greenish sheen, particularly in the light. During breeding season, adult starlings develop yellow or white spots on their feathers, adding to their distinctive appearance. They have long, pointed beaks that are ideal for foraging and extracting food from various sources.

Behavior and Habits

Starlings are highly gregarious birds that often gather in large flocks, creating spectacular aerial displays known as murmurations. They are opportunistic feeders and will consume a wide range of food, including insects, fruits, seeds, and even small animals. Starlings are known to compete with native bird species for nesting sites and will readily occupy nest boxes. They can be aggressive towards other birds and can dominate bird feeders, often scaring off smaller species.

Product Recommendations

To prevent starlings from nesting in your yard, modifying the size of nest box entry holes is crucial. By reducing the diameter of the entry holes to around 1.25 inches, you create a barrier that excludes starlings while still providing nesting opportunities for smaller bird species. Removing perches from bird houses can also discourage starlings from using them. Additionally, using feeders with smaller feeding ports or incorporating cage feeders can help limit the access of starlings to bird seeds. Avoiding the use of cheap mixed seeds and offering specialized seed types that are less appealing to starlings can further reduce their presence.

Tips for Successful Bird Feeding

Try Different Feeders and Seed Combinations

Bird feeding is a dynamic and ever-changing activity, and it often requires experimentation to find the right combination of feeders and seed types that attract desirable birds while deterring unwanted species. Don’t be afraid to try different feeder styles, such as tube feeders, hopper feeders, or platform feeders, and observe which ones are more successful in attracting smaller and more desirable bird species. Additionally, experimenting with different seed combinations, including single seed types and specialized blends, can help create a diverse feeding environment that appeals to a range of bird species.

Place Feeders in Open Areas

Birds prefer feeders that are placed in open areas where they have a clear line of sight and can feel safe from potential predators. Placing feeders near trees or shrubs can provide a sense of cover and protection for birds while they are feeding. However, it is important to ensure that the surrounding vegetation does not provide easy access for unwanted birds, such as grackles, blackbirds, and starlings, to dominate the feeder. Finding a balance between open space and visual cover can help create an inviting feeding environment for a variety of bird species.

Offer Food at Different Times of the Day

Birds have different feeding habits and may be more active during specific times of the day. By offering food at different times, you increase the chances of attracting a wider range of bird species. Some birds, such as finches, are more active in the morning and feed throughout the day, while others, such as cardinals, may be more active during the early morning and late afternoon. By providing fresh food at different times, you increase the likelihood of attracting a diverse mix of birds to your feeders.

Provide Water Sources

In addition to food, water is essential for attracting and maintaining bird populations in your yard. Providing a clean and reliable water source, such as a bird bath or a shallow dish of water, can attract a variety of birds for drinking, bathing, and preening. Placing the water source near your feeders can create a convenient and inviting feeding and watering station for birds. Regularly clean and refill the water source to ensure that birds have access to fresh, clean water throughout the year.

Manage Bird Feeder Cleanliness

Maintaining clean bird feeders is crucial for the health and well-being of the birds that visit your yard. Dirty or moldy feeders can harbor bacteria and parasites that can be harmful to birds. Regularly clean your feeders with warm soapy water, rinse them thoroughly, and allow them to dry completely before refilling them with fresh seed. Additionally, regularly clean the area around the feeders to minimize the buildup of spilled seed and bird droppings. Proper feeder hygiene helps to prevent the spread of diseases and ensures a healthy feeding environment for birds.

How to Keep Grackles, Blackbirds, and Starlings Away from Bird Feeders

Be Patient and Persistent

Results May Vary

It is important to remember that bird feeding is not an exact science, and the success of different strategies may vary depending on various factors including the bird species in your area and their specific behaviors and preferences. Some strategies, such as modifying feeders and seed types, may take time for birds to adjust and respond to. It is essential to be patient and allow the birds to become familiar with the changes you have made before expecting significant results. Observing and adapting your strategies based on the birds’ responses is key to achieving successful and enjoyable bird feeding.

Adapt Strategies as Needed

As bird populations and behaviors change over time, it may be necessary to adapt your feeding strategies accordingly. The bird species visiting your yard may change with the seasons or with changes in habitat. Additionally, the behaviors and preferences of birds can fluctuate, and what may have been effective in deterring certain species one year may not work as well the next. Stay observant and flexible, and be willing to try new approaches and techniques to ensure continued success in attracting desirable birds and deterring unwanted visitors.


Feeding birds can be a delightful and rewarding experience, offering an up-close look at these beautiful creatures and providing them with a reliable food source. However, when it comes to deterring larger birds such as grackles, blackbirds, and starlings, it requires a thoughtful approach and a combination of different strategies. By using specific types of feeders, offering appropriate seed types, modifying bird houses, and implementing home maintenance practices, you can create a bird-friendly environment that attracts smaller and more desirable bird species while deterring unwanted visitors. Remember to be patient, persistent, and adaptable in your approach, and enjoy the wonders of bird feeding in your own backyard.

How to Keep Grackles, Blackbirds, and Starlings Away from Bird Feeders

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