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Grackles, starlings and house sparrows - trouble in paradise

If you feed for any kind of extended period you are almost certainly going to have to deal with one of these "problem" species. Here are a few comments and suggestions that might be useful in dealing with these species.

1. Grackles - Grackles are aggressive and can consume a lot of seed. If your feeders are being deluged with grackles you have several choices.

a. Try to wait through the attacks. Grackles often tend to move in flocks with a range that varies over time. If you are lucky the grackles amy only remain in your area 2-3 weeks, or even less, before moving on.

b. If the grackles are a problem over long periods of time you can consider one of the "squirrel proof" designs. Some have a wire mesh to keep the squirrels at bay, and the size 9f the mesh will also do a fine job of keeping out the grackles.

Other feeders, such as the Droll "Big Top " have an adjustable top that can be used to filter out larger birds.

c. You can also try varying the type and presentation of the feed offered. Suet does a good job in attracting many species. When served in an upside down feeder species such as chickadees and nuthatches can feed while the grackles and starlings are stymied.

2. Starlings - Starlings are an aggressive species that can keep more desirable species away from your feeder. They will aggressively claim purple martin nest boxes and are a bane to many a martin landlord. Starlings were introduced into the New York area from England by a fan of English literature, who wanted every species mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare to be present in the United States.

If you have a purple martin house make sure the starlings and house sparrows do not get a foothold there. Otherwise use the same selection of feeders and feed used to help control the starlings.



3. House Sparrows - Also introduced from England, this species has been very destructive to native species. They will kill adult bluebirds in a nest box and will take over a purple martin house if left unchecked. They will also consume large volumes of your favorite sunflower seed.

Controlling house sparrows can be difficult. Feeding suet in an upside down feeder works well. Thistle feeders and thistle feed in a sock are sometimes less popular with house sparrows. House sparrows are not a protected species and some people take an aggressive approach to controlling house sparrow populations.

Q and A from the National Bird-Feeding Society

Q - I'm overrun with grackles in the summer, starlings during the fall and winter and house finches all year long. How can I change the environment in my yard to get other types of birds?

A - The main way to control which species use your feeders is by the design of the feeder and the type of food. Remember that whatever you do to limit access of unwanted birds also can affect others that you want to attract. With that in mind, first stop letting any seed fall on the ground. This is an open invitation to starlings and grackles.

Then, try a hopper feeder with a weighted perch that closes the hopper when something heavy lands on it. A tubular feeder from which you shorten or even remove the perches will help deter starlings, grackles and possibly house finches but will not affect chickadees, titmice and nuthatches. You also can try offering different foods. Experiment with safflower seed, for example, and be sure to offer suet.

Q - We have recently been overwhelmed by starlings, grackles and blackbirds to the point that the small birds have stopped coming to our yard. I read somewhere that there is something you can put in or near the feeders that keeps the large, pesky birds from coming because they don't like it. I hate losing all the small species that are so much fun to watch.

A - The way to keep the small birds is to offer food in feeders that only they can access. If you shorten or even remove the perches from tubular feeders filled with sunflower seeds, the larger birds will have difficulty hanging on long enough to get anything to eat. Also, there are feeders available with wire mesh around them that only small birds can get through.

A Bird Feeder Place - DeBerry Products Company
P.O. Box 1820, McKinney, TX 75070
eMail: sales@deberryproducts.com
Phone toll free: 888-613-9973.