Oct 18, 2017 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, October 2016

Ask Birdsquatch: Feeder Hogs

A European starling greedily eyes the offerings at a suet feeder.
Share:

Dear Birdsquatch:

It seems like I spend a blue million dollars on birdseed every month. I love the woodpeckers and have a nice variety of them at the feeder—even an occasional red-headed—but the blackbirds and house sparrows are eating me out of house and home. Is there something I can do to attract only woodpeckers and, you know, the sweet little birds like chickadees and cardinals, but not starlings or grackles or house sparrows? The only seed mix I use contains sunflower seeds and nuts—no millet or corn or milo. I offer suet, too. The woodpeckers are bringing their fledglings to it! A friend suggested I stop feeding altogether for a few weeks, but that seems so harsh. I want birds at my bird feeder... well, some birds. I hope you can help me, Birdsquatch!

—DONNA F., WINCHESTER, VIRGINIA

Dear Donna,

Many of your fellow bird lovers feel the same way about these feathered vacuum cleaners visiting their feeders. I was going to quote The Outlaw Josey Wales in my answer: "When things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, that's when you get mean, I mean plumb mad-dog mean!"

But that seems a little harsh.

A better solution is to outsmart them. House sparrows will eat anything, but they don't really like black-oil sunflower seed. So don't offer any cracked corn or mixed seed on the ground. This will also discourage the grackles. Use only hanging feeders, and limit ground feeding.

For the starlings, make them work really hard for their food. Offer suet only in feeders with access on the bottom surface. Woodpeckers can cling to these types of feeders, but starlings, grackles, and house sparrows have a hard time clinging long enough to eat much at all.

Blackbird flocks—including starlings—can sometimes descend on a feeder and dominate it for a few days at a time, but they normally move on soon thereafter. House sparrows are year-round residents, so you'll have to keep up your anti-sparrow efforts throughout the year.

You're just lucky that you're not trying to keep sasquatches off your feeders! We're relentless—especially if there's blueberry pie involved.



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

What do you think? Tell us!

comments powered by Disqus

New On This Site

The Latest Comments

  • I have the same situation. The feeder is attached to the middle of a large picture window that goes ceiling to floor w/ no ledge or sill for animals to climb or balance. Yet every morning all the sunflower seeds have been cracked open and hulls left. Any ideas what it is?
    by Liza Fox, Sun, 15 Nov 2020
  • I have a bird feeder that sticks to my window and I've been hearing noises against the window at night right now its going on. But whatever it is it is aware of me. And when I get to window it leaves.I can't imagine a squirrel or mouse or possom being able to get at it. ...So as I was reading this article im to assume no bird eats at night. Or no birds will eat at night. Why is that? Then im also thinking of a sinereo that could a lost confused bird eat at night. This eating thing is watching meI turn out the light go there noise dissappears..Thank you.
    by Nosferatu, Thu, 05 Nov 2020
  • I have metal baffles (cones) on my pole for my bird feeders. Something is still tempting them at night. What else could it be? Deer???
    by Ella Spencer Connolly, Thu, 27 Aug 2020
  • I found where he lives, then I keep him up all day by singing at full volume! Hah, that'll show the little sucker!
    by Pike Juan, Tue, 11 Aug 2020
  • I never knew feeding birds could be so confusing. I love watching the birds in my backyard even though I don't get a very big variety.
    by JustMyOpinion, Sun, 26 Jul 2020