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When Common Grackles camped out on my feeders in the spring, I got a Nuttery Globe Feeder to give smaller birds a chance to eat. Cage feeders like this one are sometimes the only way to keep aggressive nuisance birds from dominating feeders.
While all birds have their good and bad qualities (as seen by humans), I have mixed feelings about Common Grackles. Their feathers can be very beautiful in the sunlight and they are quite clever. But their manners at the bird feeders don’t endear them to me. They tend to arrive in groups. If they like what they find in a feeder, they’ll hang around all day. They dominate feeders quite aggressively, not letting other birds have a chance.
I only have grackle issues periodically, mostly on chilly spring days. But sometimes a small group of them settle in and decide to stick around. With a crowd of grackles on the feeders, Carolina Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatches and Tufted Titmouses that have been yard regulars for years disappear. Even the finches and sparrows get scarce. What to do?
The feeders the grackles typically camp out on in the spring are my two Squirrel Buster Plus feeders filled with sunflower hearts. These feeders are adjustable. When squirrels or heavy birds land on a perch, the feeder shroud drops down and the seed ports close.
Strategy 1: Adjust Squirrel Buster Feeder
My first strategy was to try and adjust the Squirrel Buster feeders to block out grackles. The trouble was, setting the weight low enough to block grackles makes the spring mechanism very sluggish. Half the time the ports wouldn’t open back up when the grackles left the perch. Then even smaller birds found the ports closed when they arrived.
Grackles are smart too. They quickly learned that more than one grackle on the feeder closes the ports but that if they landed carefully, one bird at a time, they could half land/half flutter and grab some seed. Then the next bird would do it. This procedure actually meant they were spending even MORE time at the feeders and blocking the other birds.
The springs on these feeders can eventually loosen up over time and need to be replaced (something the feeder manufacturer provides for at no cost.) But when I took one of the feeders to my local bird store to see if that was needed, they said the spring was working fine.
So that strategy didn’t work. I think I was just asking the feeder to do more than it could do. I’ve found these feeders to be 100% effective in keeping out squirrels as long as you follow the placement requirements. That is why I got the feeders, so I’m not complaining.
Strategy 2: Switch to Safflower
My next strategy was to switch the seed in those feeders to safflower temporarily. I hopped that if they only found the food they didn’t like for several days or a week, they would move on.
But they didn’t. While they seem disgusted with safflower, they still hung around to eat suet and nab the peanuts I put out for the Blue Jays. Still, with safflower in these feeders, the finches and sparrows now could come back and eat there. White-Breasted Nuthatches reappeared as well. The Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmouses didn’t seem happy with the switch to safflower though and I didn’t want to lose them.
Note: Grackles in my yard have since become willing to eat safflower if they are really hungry, although they do not prefer it. Also check out my post on How to Choose Birdseed For Backyard Birds.
Strategy 3: Nuttery Globe Feeder
Which brings me to the new feeder. I decided to leave the safflower in the Squirrel Buster Plus feeders for now. Then I bought a small cage type feeder to hold sunflower hearts.
The Nuttery Globe Seed Feeder is a short tube feeder with a round metal cage around it. Small birds can slip in and out through the cage bars but larger birds are shut out.
House Finches Figure Out the Globe Feeder
The House Finches discovered the new feeder within a couple of hours. It was interesting watching them figure it out. They seemed very nervous at first. They would slip in through the bars, often hesitating and backing out before they got inside.
If they got inside, they immediately went back out. It was like they were making sure it wasn’t a trap.
When they got comfortable with that, the first birds would go inside, grab a seed and then slip out to sit on the outside of the globe to eat the seed. They repeated the process for each seed. They still didn’t seem to trust it.
After a few days though, House Finches got comfortable and now come inside, sit at the perches and eat. Interestingly, they don’t seem to constantly bicker with each other the way they do when sitting on the Squirrel Buster Plus’s cardinal ring. I think it is because it is very easy for them to move around the ring and give each other grief. It is less easy to bug each other on the four separate perches inside the Globe feeder.
More Birds Figure Out the Globe Feeder
By the second day, a Carolina Chickadee had figured out the feeder. Soon after that, the Tufted Titmouses were using it. While the finches settled on the perches to eat, chickadees and titmouses still followed their usual MO. They would grab a seed and go to a nearby branch to eat it.
A White-Breasted Nuthatch came over to the feeder and after doing the “is it okay to go inside this thing” dance, happily snagged a seed and left to eat it.
Larger Birds Can’t Get Into The Globe Feeder
Occasionally, a grackle or a Red-Winged Blackbird will try to get some seed. But this feeder is designed for smaller birds, so they are out of luck. The only time I have a problem is when it is raining a lot. When it is wet, a crust of sunflower hearts can quickly build up on the bottom rim floor. Red-Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles will then cling to the bottom half of the globe and reach for this seed with their beaks. Cleaning takes care of this.
The cage is too small for Northern Cardinals, but they only rarely came to the Squirrel Buster feeders. They love the safflower in the other feeders anyway.
So the yard’s bird population has gone back to its more diverse mix of birds instead of being dominated by mostly grackles. A couple of grackles still come by to eat, but they don’t spend all day at the feeders blocking the other birds. So that is fine.
The Nuttery Globe Feeder on a Pole
I’m really pleased with the Globe Seed Feeder. It provides a feeder where smaller birds don’t have to compete with bigger birds. Initially, I put it on a small extra third arm of one of my bird feeder poles. The two feeders on the other arms were platform feeders filled with safflower.
Some small birds that like the sunflower seed in the Globe feeder will also eat safflower, so they would move around between the three feeders when there were a lot of them eating.
When larger birds like Mourning Doves arrived to take over the platform feeders, the smaller birds tended to retreat to the Globe feeder. They could continue to eat next to the larger birds.
I have since purchased two more cage type feeders, this time Woodlink Cage Tube Feeders. Now these three feeders share a pole and the platform feeders and their larger birds have their own pole.
Nuttery Globe Seed Feeder Review
The Nuttery Globe is a small feeder, which was a plus because I wanted to hang it on a shorter third arm of the pole. I didn’t want something that would hang down below the squirrel baffle. The tube that holds the seed isn’t huge though, so I need to top it off each day.
Adding seed is easy. I simply take it down off the arm of the pole, lift off the cover which rests on the top and add seed. Then I put the cover back and re-hang it. It takes less than a minute. The construction is very solid and I think I can reasonably expect it to last for quite a long time.
The Globe Seed Feeder’s tag says it is “squirrel proof.” I’ve got mine on a pole with a squirrel baffle, so it hasn’t been tested against a squirrel. I would suspect that a squirrel might find it challenging to reach in and grab seed out. But I also suspect it might figure out how to rock or tip the feeder to spill seed if it were hung in an unprotected place. Hanging feeders on a baffled pole saves a lot of drama and a lot of seed!
One downside of this type of feeder is that photos of birds in a cage aren’t as pleasing as birds unobstructed by bars. But I try to take most bird pictures when the birds are away from feeders. So that isn’t a huge issue for me.
2020 Update: After three years of use, the feeder is holding up well. It’s very solidly constructed. Still popular with smaller birds, it is usually busy all day. When the spring flocks come through, the Nuttery Globe cage feeder plus three Woodlink Coppper Top cage feeders are places where I can still offer sunflower hearts to smaller birds.
More on Putting Up A New Feeder
More Bird Feeder Reviews
Birdseed & Binoculars Bird Feeder Reviews (Click on this link to see the blog stream filtered to show only my bird feeder reviews.)
More Posts About Grackles
Learn More About Maryland Birds
See my post on Central Maryland Backyard Birds.
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