Grackles Taking Over Your Bird Feeder? Here's How to Encourage Them Elsewhere

Why do people dislike grackles so much? They can be beneficial to the environment, but they harm other species of birds.

Anna Garrison - Author

Mar. 26 2024, Published 11:13 a.m. ET

Grackle sitting on a branch
Source: iStock

When the snow melts away and the sun starts shining, you'll likely see any number of woodland creatures in your yard. Many people hang bird feeders in the spring to get an up-close glimpse of birds slowly migrating back to their homes.

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While sometimes bird feeders attract other non-avian nuisance creatures like squirrels, grackles, and blackbirds, they have become known for invading other birds' space and driving them away. So, how do you (humanely) get rid of grackles at bird feeders? Here's what you need to know: why grackles have such a negative reputation, explained.

Grackle with a seed in its mouth on a tree.
Source: iStock
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Here's how to get rid of grackles at bird feeders.

You can encourage grackles to stay away from your bird feeders in several ways.

Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman of Birds & Bloom advised people to switch what style of feeders they had. "Hanging tube-style feeders with short perches will attract finches and other small birds, but grackles find them hard to use," they wrote.

The outlet also recommended suet feeders or wire cages around the feeders that might discourage larger birds like grackles from stealing all the food from smaller birds such as finches, nuthatches, and others.

Similarly, Nature's Way Birds recommends distracting grackles with a decoy feeder in an easier access location. The grackles will be drawn to the easy pickings, leaving the more complicated feeders alone for smaller avians.

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Nature's Way Birds also recommends swapping out some seeds for blends that grackles cannot eat, such as safflower, nyjer seed (sometimes referred to as thistle), and plain suet. The reason grackles cannot eat these seeds is not that they are harmful to the birds but rather that the shells are too difficult for them to remove.

Grackle sitting on a bird pond.
Source: iStock
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Why don't people like grackles?

Grackles, starlings, and blackbirds are known as "bully birds" because they tend to gather in large groups and exhibit aggressive behavior. House Digest emphasizes that grackles sometimes take over other birds' nests or birdhouses while the other birds use them!

The outlet also notes they will eat "almost anything," including "food stolen from other birds, crops still in fields, and fish plucked from streams."

Vice wrote an article in 2017 about the hazards of grackles in Texas for SXSW attendees, interviewing multiple musicians who stated that the birds had frequently stolen parts of their lunches.

However, common grackles are not invasive, but great-tailed grackles are, according to UC Santa Barbara. Grackles are known for being survival birds and "uniquely adaptable" to survive.

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Great-tailed grackle on the ground in Costa Rica.
Source: iStock

How are grackles beneficial?

For all of the flack that grackles get for forcing out songbirds from natural spaces, they are beneficial for ridding areas of pests like mosquitoes, per the City of Mesquite, Texas website.

Despite their vicious personalities, grackles are not a public health risk and are legally protected as wild animals—so the best way to encourage these birds away from your property is with care.

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