Acrobatic Grackles On Suet Feeders

Last Updated on January 18, 2021 by Nancie

Common Grackle Dangling From Suet Feeder
Common Grackle Dangling From Suet Feeder

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.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

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.

Tufted Titmouse Eating Suet from the Extra Large Suet Feeder
Tufted Titmouse Eating Suet from the Extra Large Suet Feeder

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.

Common Grackle Trying to Make a Quick Suet Grab
Common Grackle Trying to Make a Quick Suet Grab

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.

Common Grackle Looking For Seed on Ground
Common Grackle Looking For Seed on 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.

Downy Woodpecker Eating Suet (and Spilling Some)
Downy Woodpecker Eating Suet (and Spilling Some)

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.

Update: And now, four years later, the upside-down suet feeders still work very well to slow down these birds. While over time individual grackles 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 now mostly leave it alone except in the spring when feeding suet to their young. And if you put suet on a baffled shepherd’s hook pole squirrels and raccoons can’t get to them. I’ve also added a cage suet feeder that completely blocks out the grackles.

Also see my post on Suet Starlings and Grackles Won’t Eat?


Do you have problems with grackles on seed feeders? See my Get Grackles off Seed Feeders post.

Solving Suet & Suet Feeder Problems

Birds Choice Upside Down Suet Feeder Review

Best Way to Hang a Suet Feeder

Where to Hang a Suet Feeder

Starling Proofing the Suet

Does Hot Pepper Suet Deter Squirrels?

Bird Feeder Baffles in the Wind & Suet

A Raccoon is Eating My Suet!

Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder Review

When Grackles Don’t Leave

Get Grackles Off Seed Feeders

Grackles vs Nuttery Globe Feeder

Fewer Mixed Blackbird Flocks at My Feeders

Learn More About Maryland Birds

See my post on Maryland Backyard Birds.

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