How Do I Discourage Grackles and Starlings?

Spring heralds the return of many anticipated birds. It is also the time when members of the Icterid family (red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, and grackles) along with starlings can overrun our feeders. You can either change the feeder you use or the seed you put in your feeder to discourage these birds.

Feeders with small perches or feeders designed with no perches for small, clinging birds will prevent grackles and starlings from feeding. Keep in mind, though, that this will leave your cardinals, jays, and rose-breasted grosbeaks with no place to feed from, either.

You can also switch to feeding safflower seed; this is the most popular method of dealing with these birds. The hard shell on this seed is easily opened by our typical seed-eating birds, but baffles grackles and starlings. When you make the switch to safflower, be sure to give your regular feeder birds several days to get used to this new seed. Some people mix the safflower with their regular seed for a couple of days before switching over to all safflower.

Red-winged Blackbirds generally disperse into their breeding grounds several weeks after they return to our area and are seldom a problem at feeders for very long. People living near fields and marshes may have them all summer, however. Grackles and starlings will nest near people and can be an issue especially in June when they have young. Red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, and grackles are all native species protected under the International Migratory Bird Treay Act, so it is illegal to poison, deliberately harm, or kill them.