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When Common Grackles get on suet feeders, they can be a pain. This spring a small but very tenacious group of grackles arrived in the yard. They first dominated the Squirrel Buster Plus feeders, full of sunflower hearts, driving away smaller birds. And they got on the suet feeders.
Grackles need to eat too, but with grackles, the first day you’ll have one. The next day there will be two. Succeeding days will bring three then five then seven . . . So a change was in order.
Swapping in Safflower Seed
First, to discourage the grackle numbers from ever growing, I swapped in safflower seed in the Squirrel Buster Plus feeders. (I had already previously swapped safflower into the open hanging platform feeder.)
Safflower is a seed grackles don’t typically like, although they will eat it if hungry enough. After a day of repeatedly going to the feeders to find that the food they wanted had not miraculously reappeared, they switched their focus to suet. Again, they dominated it and in the process chased away the woodpeckers for big chunks of time.
Grackles Eating Suet
The grackles particularly seemed to like one extra large suet feeder I had hanging face-down from a tree limb by a baffled hook. When a woodpecker, wren or titmouse used it, they often spilled bits of suet to the ground below, making the ground under it popular with grackles and Gray Catbirds.
Not content with this however, grackles learned to make hovering vertical flights up to the feeder bottom, hummingbird style. Or they flew up to dangle from the the feeder’s metal grill for a few seconds. They used this time to peck out suet bits, most of which fell to the ground.
Then they flew down to eat the bits. I think they particularly favored this larger suet feeder because it offered a larger target surface. It also uses large suet cakes, which are a bit harder to find. So often I’d fill it with a smaller suet cake or even a puzzle-work of pieces of several smaller suet cakes which made it hang at a tilt. This tilt made it easier for birds like grackles or Eastern Starlings to hang on it for longer periods.
Upside-Down Suet Feeder
So I decided to retire this larger feeder and replace it with another Birds Choice Upside Down roofed suet feeder.
The change was interesting. As soon as I swapped in the new feeder, grackles stopped spending long periods of time focused on this particular location. They still make runs all the suet feeders at times but no longer preferred this feeder as it is now no easiest to access. This one change reduced the amount of time they spend at my feeders, making woodpeckers with their newly fledged youngsters much happier.
And now, three years later, the upside down suet feeders still work very well to slow down these birds. While over time they do learn to dangle on them a bit, they can’t get on the suet feeder long enough to completely take it over. In my yard they mostly leave it alone now except in the spring when they are feeding it to their young. And if you put suet on a baffled shepherd’s hook pole squirrels and raccoons can’t get to them.
Do you have problems with grackles on seed feeders? See my Get Grackles off Seed Feeders post.
Other Posts About Suet Feeders
More Posts About Grackles
Learn More About Maryland Birds
See my post on Central Maryland Backyard Birds.
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