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 experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018