Last Updated on February 1, 2021 by Nancie
Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder Review: Want to keep your suet feeder from being dominated by European Starlings and Common Grackles? One way is to put the suet beyond their reach in Erva’s Starling-Proof Suet Feeder. While I’m a fan of upside-down suet feeders and have used them for years, Erva’s method of putting the suet deep in a cage has promise. This feeder allows smaller birds access to the suet while caging larger birds out.
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Upside-Down Suet Feeders
Here in the Mid-Atlantic, European Starlings and Common Grackles are typically most problematic on suet feeders in late winter and early spring when late winter flocks arrive. They can dominate suet for weeks so that other birds can’t get a turn. (Other regions may struggle with these birds at other points of their yearly cycle as the flocks move.)
Upside-down suet feeders can greatly reduce the time individual starlings and grackles (and some other birds) can spend on suet. Hanging upside-down to eat is harder for them than for clinging birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches or wrens, etc. But over time, the strongest of these nuisance birds can get better and better at dangling. If you get enough of them taking turns, other birds can still have trouble getting access at times.
Erva’s Starling-Proof Mealworm Feeder Worked, So How About Their Suet Feeder?
So what to do? Last year, I was struggling to keep starlings out of dried mealworms I put out for Eastern Bluebirds. After trying several things, I finally settled on Erva’s Starling-Proof Mealworm feeder. This cage feeder puts the mealworms deep inside a cage. Bluebirds and other small birds can learn to slip through the cage wires, but starlings and grackles are too big. They can dangle on the outside, but unless there are spilled mealworms on the cage floor rim, they can’t get anything. This feeder made a HUGE difference in being able to successfully feed bluebirds in my yard.
Deciding on Erva’s Starling-Proof Suet Feeder
After that positive experience, I was mulling over whether to try the suet version of this same Starling-Proof feeder. (Erva’s line of Starling-Proof feeders all start with a drum-shaped cage with a metal top and bottom. Each version has a different attachment inside to offer seed or mealworms or suet, etc. They all have a sturdy cable loop for hanging. ) Erva’s Starling-Proof Suet feeder has an inner wire suet cage that you screw inside the main cage. It can hold two blocks of commercial suet back to back and comes in copper or green colors.
Smaller suet-eating birds can slip through this feeder’s outer cage wires to eat, but not larger birds. So birds like titmouses, nuthatches, wrens, chickadees, bluebirds and Downy Woodpeckers can eat the suet. Larger birds like starlings, grackles and Blue Jays should be blocked.
This also means that larger woodpeckers like Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and Pileated Woodpeckers are probably going to be blocked out as well. Red-Bellied Woodpeckers do have long beaks and very long tongues. In my yard, they cling on the outside of Woodlink cage feeders and use their beaks and tongues to pull sunflower chips from feeder ports inside the cage. So I suppose it might possible that red-bellies might be able to reach the suet in the Erva suet feeders with their tongue. (It would be an impressive stretch though.) But often I’ll see birds pound on suet with their bill to loosen it up. I’m not sure red-bellies would be able to stretch far enough to do that here. I don’t see Pileated Woodpeckers at my feeders so I can’t comment on how they might approach this feeder.
Using Both Starling-Proof and Upside-Down Suet Feeders
Because I have Red-Bellied Woodpeckers in the yard year-round, I hesitated on buying this feeder. I didn’t want to block them out along with the starlings and grackles. But my plan is to use both this feeder and the upside-down suet feeders I already have. This lets the red-bellies continue to use the upside-down feeders but sets aside this new feeder for smaller birds.
My strategy for when the starlings and grackles are a pain is to put regular commercial suet with additions like peanuts or insects in the Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder. I then fill the upside-down feeders with pure suet blocks. In past experiments with pure suet, I found that Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers seemed fine with it but starlings and grackles showed no interest. (Important Note: Because pure suet melts, only use it when temperatures are under about 70F. Once days get warmer, you MUST take it down. Melting suet can dangerously coat a bird’s feathers as well as make a mess.)
Erva’s Starling-Proof Suet Feeder
I purchased this feeder online directly from the folks at Erva. (They sell the feeder on Amazon too.) It arrived well wrapped with the inner suet cage of the feeder wrapped separately inside the main feeder cage. Putting it together is very easy. Simply attach the inner suet cage at the bottom with a hand-turn screw wheel.
The inside suet cage is wide enough to hold two regular-sized commercial blocks back to back. There is a swing top to the inner suet cage that lets you easily insert the suet. Closing it keeps birds from getting into the suet from the top and potentially getting stuck.
Birds use this feeder by flying to the outer cage and clinging to the side briefly. They then slip through the wire cage openings to get to the inner suet cage. They cling to the inner suet cage to peck out the suet.
So far most birds tend to eat from the sides of the inner cage, although I notice the Carolina Wrens will often sit on top of the suet to eat. I have also seen them wait out a hawk by sitting on top of the inner suet cage.
A Couple Minor Feeder Caveats
I have noticed two issues with this feeder. I don’t see either as a deal breaker though, especially as it has been keeping the nuisance birds out.
First, as birds eat the suet, the suet blocks start to get thinner. I noticed that at this point both blocks can start to lean away from one side toward the other. I first tucked a short fat stick in between the blocks so birds could continue to easily access the suet from both sides. Experimenting though, I found a better method: slicing up two blocks to the width of the suet cage and stacking the slices inside it. This creates a solid block of suet that doesn’t flop around as it gets eaten.
Second, like traditional cage suet feeders, the suet is more exposed to the elements than suet in upside-down suet feeders. When we had a stretch of hot humid Maryland weather with energetic summer afternoon thunderstorms thrown in, the suet in this feeder got a layer of mold over it. This can happen in any suet feeder, but I’ve found that it tends to be much slower to happen in the upside-down feeders. For this reason, you’ll need to keep an extra eye on the suet especially during rainy periods. The feeder can also fill with snow during storms, but is easy to clear out.
Do Birds Like Erva’s Starling-Proof Suet Feeder?
So far the new feeder has been a success. I started my trial of the feeder in this past summer but it is now being used in winter months and the “blackbird” flocks arrived with the snow. So far, starlings and grackles have briefly dangled on the outside but were not be able to get to the suet.
Downys on the Suet Feeder
Downy Woodpeckers seem fine with this feeder. (Note: In my yard downys have learned to slip into Woodlink cage feeders to get sunflower chips. So they were already familiar with cage feeders.)
It does take birds a little time to get used to a new feeder design. Sometimes you can give them a little nudge. I had three upside-down suet feeders hanging on a single pole, so I swapped out one with this new cage suet feeder. At first the downys ignored it, but then I briefly let the two upside-down feeders run empty.
A downy, finding the upside-down feeders empty, sat on one of the feeders to mull the situation over. After re-checking a few times to confirm that the upside-down feeders were in fact empty, he flew over to the cage feeder.
After a little hesitation, he slipped inside and proceeded to eat. Once one bird figures out a feeder, other birds typically follow.
Now I see downys eating at both types of feeders each day. Some individuals seem to prefer the upside-down feeders and some seem to prefer the Starling-Proof Suet Feeder.
Other Birds on the Suet Feeder
As days and weeks passed, other birds got comfortable with the caged suet feeder. I’ve seen Tufted Titmouses and a White-Breasted Nuthatch use it as well as Carolina Chickadees and Carolina Wrens. The Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and Blue Jays continue to get suet from the nearby upside-down feeders.
Should You Get Erva’s Starling-Proof Suet Feeder?
I would say that if you have trouble with starlings and grackles and your upside-down feeders aren’t enough, give this one a try. While it is not inexpensive, it is solidly made and should last a very long time. It ought to keep the nuisance birds out and that can save you money on suet. If you have larger woodpeckers in your yard that you want to feed, I would suggest keeping at least one upside-down suet feeder for them and consider filling it with pure suet during cold months.
Need more help with starlings? Check out my post on Strategies to Keep Starlings Off Feeders.
More Posts on Suet Feeders
Birds Choice Upside-Down Suet Feeder Review
Strategies to Keep Starlings Off Feeders
Solving Suet and Suet Feeder Problems
Also See: Which Feeders Attract Which Birds?
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6 thoughts on “Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder Review”
Are Cardinals able to access the Erva’s Starling proof suet feeder?
No, I believe the cage openings would probably be too narrow for cardinals. Cardinals don’t typically use cage type feeders. They much prefer platform or hopper type feeders. They also don’t typically eat suet, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Thanks — very helpful info. This is my first year with bird feeders and the grackles were a little overwhelming until the suet ran out and the black oilers were switched to safflower seeds. Now I am trying to discourage the mourning doves from just hanging out. Your site is very helpful and I like how you identify a problem, experiment with a possible solution, and then observe the birds‘ response — this has also been my approach along with a lot of reading and googling.
Sure thing. My pleasure truly. I like the challenge of figuring these things out and love sharing what I’ve learned. I do a lot of reading and googling too. That’s the cool thing about the internet — learning from other people’s experiences. : )
Mourning Doves do like to hang around and eat seed! They seem to be pretty sweet-natured birds in general and aren’t usually aggressive toward other species at feeders so I’m ok with them. But they do hang around in BIG groups, so when they come to visit your feeders, they can sometimes take over. If there are only a few, then other birds can eat along side them peacefully. When there are dozens of them, the sheer numbers can cause other birds (like your cardinals) to back off and wait until they move on.
Mourning Doves like platform feeders and ground feeding and sometimes larger hopper feeder trays. You won’t see them on tube feeders or cage feeders, so having a variety of feeder types can help.
Mourning Doves spook really, really easily. I think this is probably because they seem to be a favorite hawk food at feeders. Coopers Hawks that visit my yard always seem to go for them if they can. If I simply open my back door, most of the Mourning Doves will scatter. If I actually walk outside, the rest will disappear as well. (I don’t shout or anything. Just my movement sets them off.) If I walk back inside or stand/sit quietly, the cardinals and other smaller birds will soon take advantage of the Mourning Doves’ retreat and will go back to the feeders. So they get their turn that way. You will probably also notice that Northern Cardinals tend to be the first birds at the feeders in the morning (often before it is light) and the last birds in the evening, lingering until dusk. So be sure to keep your feeders full for them at those times.
Hi there, I happened to come across your site by chance and really appreciate your observations in this post. Thanks so much for sharing. I have this same Erva suet feeder (and obtained it with some difficulty in Canada, particularly with the Covid disruptions to supply chains). My observations are similar to yours. I really like this feeder for keeping Starlings and Grackles at bay. I dangle some galvanized filament wire from it as well to help keep the House Sparrows in check. If only there were any deterrent that could also discourage House Finches from dominating every feeder! One (maybe minor) issue with the feeder is that, as the suet gets pecked at, many fragments of suet fall to the feeder floor and it soon becomes a thick greasy mess that requires washing to prevent the grease from getting on the birds’ feathers. So it does require a bit more work than some other suet feeders–worth the tradeoff though. I think if the bottom had a small segment of mesh instead of a solid floor underneath the suet cage, it might help, although I realize it would introduce the added challenge now of preventing the Starlings from eating from underneath. I tried lining the interior of the suet cage with some hardware wire/mesh and filled it with peanuts — this was soon a huge hit with nuthatches and doesn’t leave any mess! If it weren’t so difficult to acquire these in Toronto, Canada, I’d order the peanut mesh version of this feeder too! Thanks again for sharing these great notes!
Very cool observations. I especially love the hardware cloth/mesh idea. Very clever. At first I thought you meant that you had lined the whole bottom interior of the feeder with mesh, leaving a gap between the mesh and the floor that could be filled with peanuts that the birds could get to from above. But reading your comment again, I think you mean that you lined the inside suet cage with mesh (not the whole bottom of the feeder) and this basically turned your caged suet feeder into a caged peanut feeder. Is that right? Interesting. I could see how that could work and would make the peanut loving birds very happy.
One thing I really like about this line of Erva feeder is that the basic design is simple enough that you can fiddle with them and customize them if you like. (I did that with the mealworm version of this feeder to make the bowl deeper and wider to better offer dried mealworms. There is another post on here about it.)
I did purchase this suet feeder directly from Erva this year in early summer. Usually in the past I’ve had very quick shipping from Erva. But at that particular time, between Covid and street protests near the Erva location, it took a few weeks longer than usual to arrive. I don’t think the delivery companies were doing pickups at their location during that period which was the explanation for the delay. I’m not sure what their shipping is like right now.
Anyway, thanks very much for your comments. Really interesting!