Have you noticed a small blackbird that just can’t seem to stay away from your trash can or plants in your garden? Is there a certain type of bird that seems to take over your bird feeders and scare the other birds away? You are likely viewing a Grackle, a popular bird in the blackbird family and are also likely wondering how to keep them from taking over your bird feeders!
Grackles can be aggressive toward other birds, and you may need to deter them from your bird feeders. Keeping Grackles away without disturbing other birds can be done by using weighted or caged bird feeders along with birdseed that Grackles dislike, such as safflower or thistle seeds.
Once you have identified that the birds on the property are Grackles, there are different tips and tricks you can use to get them to stay away while still encouraging the other birds you are hoping will stick around. Keep on reading to find out more!
However, if you are unsure how to navigate your Grackle problem, we highly recommend contacting a professional.
How To Identify Grackles In Your Yard
Although it can be hard to differentiate the different species of blackbirds for even the most avid birder, there are certain characteristics that help distinguish Grackles from other birds.
A Grackle is a common bird in North America that often travels in large groups. They tend to be found most often in the geographic regions of the eastern United States and the south and midwest.
However, Grackles have slowly been migrating toward the west coast as well and can now be found all throughout the United States.
You Can Identify A Grackle From Their Long Legs And Flat Heads
These birds are often identified using their long legs and tails.
Although they are sometimes confused for other species of blackbirds, their flat heads often help in the identification process.
Grackles Have Darker-Colored Feathers
Males often have dark black feathers while females have dark brown feathers.
Male Grackles are sometimes easier to distinguish due to the navy blue coloring on their head and the rainbow coloring that can occur on their chest.
Grackles are famous for their dominant behavior with other birds which often makes them unwanted guests in gardens, bird feeders, and farmland.
Grackles Adapt Easily with Their Diet and Habitat
One of the most significant reasons Grackles are so abundant is their ability to adapt.
These birds originally lived in vast farmland areas with abundant sources of crops. You would often see hundreds of Grackles in fields or meadows, foraging for food on the ground.
But over time they have learned to live in urban areas and have been known to set up their nests in city parks.
Grackles Are Not Picky Eaters
They also eat a variety of items and are excellent foragers when searching for food on the ground.
Grackles tend to be most interested in insects and vegetables as well as small fish and of course, they appreciate almost any type of seeds left in bird feeders.
Because Grackles can eat varied food choices as well as adapt to living in habitats that range from a marsh all the way to a city park, their population has grown significantly since they were first discovered in the 18th century.
Grackles Torment Other Birds
Grackles can actually be quite beautiful to look at and watch from afar. In fact, their behavior can even be entertaining at times as they are some of the more intelligent birds.
According to researchers at Forest Wildlife, Grackles are some of the most intelligent birds and use this intelligence to their advantage to outsmart other birds.
This cunning way of thinking not only allows Grackles to steal food and prime nest locations from other birds, but it also gives Grackles the brave assumption they can take food from humans as well in urban areas.
The problem is that when they are near other birds looking for food or a spot to make a nest, they become extremely aggressive. Their aggressive behavior chases other birds away leaving Grackles as the dominant species of birds in an area.
The Three Main Species of Grackles in the United States
Although there are eleven species of Grackles throughout the entire world, in the United States we only see a variety of three different species.
The three main types of Grackles that live throughout the United States depending on the region are the Common Grackle, the Boat-tailed Grackle, and the Great-Tailed Grackle.
The Common Grackle gets its name from being found all throughout the continental U.S and is the smallest of the three species as well as the ones that follow a migratory pattern.
Boat-Tailed And Great-Tailed Grackles Are Easily Confused With Each other
Whereas the Boat-Tailed Grackle and the Great-Tailed Grackle often get confused with one another as they are similar in appearance and size.
The easiest way to distinguish between the two lesser-known species is eye color, with the Great-Tailed Grackle having yellow eyes and the Boat-Tailed Grackle often having darker eyes that appear brown or black.
How to Keep Grackles Away Without Repelling Other Birds
Due to their combative behavior, many tips and tricks have been used to keep these birds away from other birds and bird feeders.
In order to keep Grackles away but not other birds, it is helpful to understand their behaviors and feeding patterns to learn how to prevent them from taking over and pushing out other species of birds.
If you’re also having problems with other types of birds and are curious how to deter them, head on over to our article about plants that birds hate, for a great way to keep all types of birds away – even Grackles!
Use Weighted Bird Feeders Helps Dissuade Grackles
Grackles, like many birds, enjoy snacking at bird feeders throughout their day. If you have a bird feeder out, these birds are instantly going to flock to the feeder and take food away from other species of birds.
Not only are these birds willing to fight it out with other birds, but their size alone can also intimidate the other birds that usually come to your feeders.
The good news is that you don’t have to get rid of your bird feeder to get rid of the Grackles. Investing in a weighted feeder is a great solution to help keep Grackles off your feeder while allowing other birds to still enjoy the food inside.
This Squirrel Solution 200 Bird Feeder is a weighted feeder that is a popular choice as it has a mechanism that will instantly close off the seeds from heavier birds such as Grackles.
Change the Design Of Your Bird Feeder
Another option besides using a weighted bird feeder is adjusting the length of the pegs on your feeder.
Since Grackles are larger birds, they need a sturdy perch in order to gain access to a feeder – so finding a bird feeder with shorter pegs like this Garden Tube Bird Feeder can be the perfect solution!
Many bird feeders are designed with a perch that surrounds the base of the feeder allowing multiple birds to eat at once. In theory, this is a great idea, but when a Grackle comes to eat it pushes the other birds out with its aggressive tendencies.
Use A Caged Bird Feeder
Watching a variety of birds in your yard can bring a lot of beauty and joy. It can be extremely frustrating if you are watching out for different species of birds and notice that only the large bully Grackles are the ones that continue to dominate the bird feeder.
One of the ways to solve this problem is using a caged bird feeder. This allows for smaller birds such as hummingbirds or finches to access the bird feeder while keeping the Grackles out.
Although the Grackles may still try and attempt to eat from a caged feeder, eventually they will realize they aren’t able to access the seeds from the feeder anymore and they will look elsewhere for food.
Separate Grackles From Other Birds by Using Safflower Seeds
Although Grackles can eat large food items including something as big as a peanut, there are certain seeds that are more challenging for them to eat due to the size and strength of their beak.
Adjusting the food you are putting in your bird feeder can help keep Grackles from being the only birds at your feeders. Using safflower seeds in your bird feeder is a great option to keep Grackles away as those seeds are more challenging for them to crack.
However, other birds can eat safflower seeds which means they will keep coming to the bird feeder. The same is true for thistle seeds which Grackles cannot eat but other species such as finch birds are able to enjoy.
Putting Food on the Ground Will Entice Grackles Away from Bird Feeders
Many avid bird watchers don’t actually mind Grackles, as long as they can keep other birds around too.
If you are simply looking for methods to deter Grackles from taking over your bird feeders or plants, placing food on the ground may help with this problem.
Grackles naturally forage for food on the ground. One of their favorite meals is corn. Placing corn kernels around the ground, or even getting a feeder for the ground can help entice these blackbirds to focus on that area and leave the other birds you enjoy watching alone.
Some people have figured out that using a container below their bird feeder to collect the seeds that fall helps keep Grackles from scrounging around on the ground too.
Keep Your Yard and Outdoor Areas Free of Debris and Trash
Grackles aren’t picky when it comes to the food they are eating.
Because they are such aggressive birds, they don’t always shy away from humans the same way other smaller songbirds might.
Grackles have been known to get into trash cans on the outside of your house as well as recycling bins or any other potential food sources laying around.
Getting a trash can with a sturdy lid can help prevent this problem and take away one of the food sources enticing the Grackles to hang around your property.
Pruning Trees Helps Keep Grackles From Making Nests
Grackles prefer making their nests in trees with a large amount of coverage and leaves. These birds specifically seek out trees with a large canopy cover to build their nests.
Because Grackles tend to nest in colonies of anywhere from thirty to fifty birds at a time, they look for larger coniferous trees with plenty of coverage, pruning these trees will deter them.
One technique to help keep Grackles away is keeping the trees around your property pruned regularly. This deters Grackles from making nests since the coverage they need for warmth and protection from predators will be gone from the pruning.
Nets May Help Protect Small Crops from Grackles
Whether you are a farmer or someone who has a small vegetable or plant garden, Grackles can be a nuisance and wreak havoc on your crops.
According to experts at the USDA, one method for protecting plants and vegetables from Grackles is the use of netting. Although it can be expensive, it has also been shown to be effective.
Investing in nets to protect your fruit trees or bushes not only keeps Grackles away but other unwanted animals from eating your fruit.
These PetiDream Invisible Garden Netting help protect anything from blueberry bushes to strawberry plants and has been effective for keeping squirrels and other scavenger animals away as well.
Scare Grackles Away with Predator Decoys
Even though Grackles have a reputation for being bullies and chasing other birds away, they still have their own predators to worry about.
Grackles may be some of the bigger birds at your bird feeder, but they are still a tasty meal for even bigger birds such as hawks or owls. So, finding some faux predator decoys and adding them to your outdoor space, maybe the perfect addition!
Using a decoy like this Flyonte Birds Scaring Flying Kite is a great option when you are working to deter Grackles from larger areas such as a field of corn or a vegetable crop.
Take Down Your Bird Feeder When Grackles Are Most Active
Grackles, like many birds, have certain schedules and patterns they follow. Many people have observed that these sly birds tend to eat early in the morning, closest to sunrise.
It may take some observation and data collection on your end, but if you can find the pattern that the Grackles you are dealing with have, you can work to outsmart them by putting food out at different times of the day.
If the Grackles you observe are in fact eating the majority of the crops or seeds in the early dawn hours of the day, you can keep your feeders put up until later in the day.
If you are in the same location for years at a time, you may also notice certain times of the year when a flock of Grackles is more likely to appear. Keeping this in mind, you may limit how much food you are putting in your bird feeders or change the style of feeder you are using during this time period.
Deter Grackles from Having Perch Spots on Ledges
According to researchers at the University of Missouri, taking away options for Grackles to perch on is an effective way to prevent Grackles from settling on your property.
Even though these birds are often on the lookout for their next meal, they are also birds who travel and nest in colonies. This means they need a place to perch and hang out in between searching for food.
Grackles enjoy perching on ledges along buildings and houses for a convenient and comfortable resting place. In order to keep Grackles off of ledges, you can install bird spikes that make it impossible for Grackles to sit on a ledge.
Benefits of Having Grackles Around Your Yard
Even though these birds can be an aggressive nuisance, there are some benefits to having them around.
Since Grackles are ground foragers if you have an overly abundant population of insects they are likely to help get that population under control.
This can protect your plants and garden from any invasive insect species that have taken over. Grackles also eat small rodents and can help keep your rodent population under control too.
that’s a wrap!
As you work to try different options and techniques to keep these bully birds from taking over your feeders and plants, remember that they are migratory birds and will hopefully only be around for a few weeks.
Some of the best tips to try to get rid of Grackles are:
- Use a tube bird feeder with smaller perches that Grackles won’t be able to stand on.
- Installing a weighted bird feeder allows smaller birds to eat while making it harder for Grackles to balance to get food from the bird feeder.
- Try using a caged bird feeder to keep other smaller birds coming to the feeder.
- Grackles are always aware of potential predators which means using a larger bird decoy or kite can help scare them away.
- Switch out the type of seeds you are using in your feeder to keep Grackles away.
- Keeping your larger trees pruned takes away potential nesting locations for Grackles and their colonies.
Remember that as much as Grackles enjoy tormenting other birds for a food source, they are just as concerned about keeping an eye out for their own predators.
Using different types of bird feeders as well as scare tactics can help keep Grackles away while keeping the rest of the birds around to enjoy watching at your bird feeders.
Happy Grackle repelling!
Bodenchuk, M.J. and D.L. Bergman. 2020. Grackles. Wildlife Damage Management Technical Series. USDA, APHIS, WS National Wildlife Research Center. Fort Collins, Colorado. 16p.
Slaughter, E.I., Berlin, E.R., Bower, J.T. and Blumstein, D.T. (2013), A Test of the Nonlinearity Hypothesis in Great-tailed Grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus). Ethology, 119: 309-315.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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