About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What do grackles eat?

Grackles have taken over!  Any suggestions for what to feed them so they stay away from the songbird feeders? ~ Greater Detroit Area 


Common Grackles forage primarily on the ground. During breeding season, their diets consist mainly of insects. However the birds are opportunistic and can eat fish, small frogs, salamanders, mice, and small bats. They are also known to eat other birds' eggs and nestlings, and occasionally kill and eat other adult birds, particularly adult House Sparrows. During spring and fall migration and winter, common grackles eat mostly grains and sunflower seeds, as well as corn and acorns. They also eat some fruits.

The arrival of hungry blackbirds in the spring can be overwhelming for some people. Keep in mind that after some spring rains and a couple warm days, the bugs will start hatching. That is when you'll be thankful that these menacing birds are patrolling your lawn for a variety of creepy crawlies and flying insects.

In the meantime I've made a checklist of some ways to reduce the numbers of blackbirds from your feeders:

1) Change seed: Take away cracked corn or food scraps, their favorite foods. Switch to an all safflower seed diet for a few weeks. Squirrels, blackbirds, starlings, and crows don’t like safflower. It may take awhile for the other songbirds to accept the change but it is a favorite with cardinals and chickadees. And gradually the rest of the songbirds will switch over to safflower.

2) Change your bird feeders: Replace platform or hopper feeders with tube feeders, the Squirrel Buster Plus weighted perch feeder, or the upside down suet feeder. If the birds are unable to sit and eat comfortably they will probably move on to easier feeding areas.

3) Keep larger birds away from spilled seed: Since song birds knock seed out of feeders, limit access to spilled seed by placing rocks or shrubs beneath your feeders. Smaller birds will be able to hop in and out of tiny places, unlike big blackbirds.

4) Make the area more desirable for songbirds: Lots of trees will make them feel secure, as will the presence of a constant water source. Blackbirds and Crows prefer the open fields or yards.

Also be aware that the abundance of blackbirds makes them an important prey base for many small predators. Thanks for the question.

I hope one of these tips helps.

Thank you!  Lots of great ideas.