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Birding Focus: Interesting stories of our feathered friends.

Common grackle hogging bird seed
© George H. Harrison

Outwitting Bully Birds

How often have you been upset by bigger birds chasing away goldfinches, juncos or chickadees from your bird feeders? These so called ďbully birdsĒ that include crows, blue jays, grackles, starlings, and sometimes, even mourning doves, are aggressive and intimidating to smaller songbirds.

If this is a problem at your house, there are a few steps you can take to reduce or eliminate the bully birds from eating all the food:

Control With Feeder Styling: Bully birds are almost always larger than those being bullied, and by enclosing the feeders in large mesh hardware cloth or chicken wire, only the small birds can enter the feeding area. These caged feeders, that are also sold commercially, will keep squirrels out, as well.

Feeders with the weighted perches will keep out the bigger birds whose own weight lowers a bar over the food slots. And tube feeders with the perches above the port holes require the birds to lean down to feed, which will eliminate the bullies.

Starlings can be discouraged from eating suet, one of their favorite foods, by hanging the suet feeder under a domed squirrel baffle. Starling donít like going up and under for food. There is also a special starling proof suet feeder that can only be approached by birds from underneath, which starlings donít like, either.

Selective Feeding: You can get rid of many bully birds if you donít feed them the kinds of foods they like, such as wild bird seed mixes containing millet, milo and cracked corn. Instead offer finch foods, such as niger (thistle) and safflower seeds, a cardinal favorite.

-- George H. Harrison