I live in Meigs County Ohio and have always had wonderful results from OSU...

Asked June 7, 2019, 9:14 AM EDT

I live in Meigs County Ohio and have always had wonderful results from OSU Extension's "Ask An Expert" resource. So first of all, Thank You very much for offering this invaluable tool and resource. My neighbors and I have been feeding the birds with suet cakes and wild bird seed blends that are mixed/formulated to attract cardinals, songbirds and the like. However, a drove of blackbirds have recently swarmed in and they completely scare off the birds we are targeting to provide feed for daily....they are mean, aggressive and they completely devour all the seed and suet we supply each day for the other birds. Is their something we can do to discourage or repel these black birds from coming around & completely cleaning out the bird feeders each day? They are also making a huge mess depositing their waste in the yard and all over the feeders too...not a pleasant surprise to come home to....Eeeekkks! We are quite new to the bird feeding /watching circuit, so would welcome any suggestions or solutions to our problem. Perhaps there may be something we could even build or create to intice the birds we are wanting to attract that would also keep the black birds out?

Meigs County Ohio

1 Response

Hello and I'm so glad to hear you enjoy Ask-the-Expert! You are so very welcome!
I'm sorry to hear you are having issues with blackbirds. I feel your pain. I too, have had the same issues with grackles cleaning out my feeders in a day or less. It is very frustrating, not to mention expensive. Here are a few suggestions that may help.

  • The type of bird food you are supplying matters. Avoid the food that is attractive to grackles and starlings (I suspect grackles are your larger problem), such as corn and whole sunflower seeds. See the list of food below. You also mentioned suet - that will also attract grackles. I save my suet for the winter months, when birds are really in need of a healthy fat source (and grackles aren't around).
  • Use feeders that aren't easily accessible to larger birds. For example, you can find feeders that have cages around them allowing access only to smaller birds. They are designed to keep squirrels out, but can work to keep grackles and larger blackbirds out, too. Or you can use finch feeders or other similar feeders that have holes only birds with smaller bills can access. Grackles favor large open feeders, platform feeders, or to feed on the ground.
  • Clean up fallen seed. This goes along with the last bullet point - try not to make food easy to access. Seed scattered all over the ground will be easy and attractive to both starlings and grackles.
  • Here is a website where you can learn more about feeding birds: https://feederwatch.org/learn/feeding-birds/
Here is a list of seed that attracts certain birds (as promised above):

- striped sunflower seed (whole or hearts): chickadees, titmice, goldfinches, house finches, cardinals, bluejays, grosbeaks, some woodpeckers, grackles, purple finches

- black oil sunflower seed (whole): chickadees, titmice, goldfinches, house finches, cardinals, bluejays, grosbeaks, some woodpeckers, grackles, purple finches, siskins

- millet and milo: sparrows, doves, juncos, cowbirds

- niger (thistle): goldfinches, house finches

- peanut kernels: bluejays, starlings, some sparrows, titmice, chickadees

- cracked corn: grackles, grosbeaks

Just to share what I ended up doing as I had a similar problem... I eventually stopped feeding birds in the summer. Typically there is enough natural food (insects and food from plants), that bird feeders aren't as important during the summer and fall months. They are needed a bit more during the winter and early spring (before plants are in bloom and many insects have emerged). I completely understand, however, that you enjoy seeing the birds at your feeders during the summer. I hope the above suggestions work for you. I also provide bird-friendly plants in my backyard (plants that provide berries and insects (attracted by blooms) for the birds). If you are interested in receiving more information on this, email me (titchenell.4@osu.edu) and I will send you some fact sheets. Good luck!