About us: We own a wild bird feeding supply 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.
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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.


Anonymous said...

So glad I found your article. I love feeding the birds in my backyard, and get mostly doves and sparrows, with one resident cardinal family and a blue jay. Starlings and grackles normally aren't a problem. However, we are in a severe drought, and food and water are extremely scarce, so I didn't mind the grackles.
In the past month, I have found the dead partially eaten bodies of 6 sparrows. I had thought that the resident hawk in my neighborhood was responsible. But, today I saw a grackle eating a sparrow. I was horrified, not sure what to think.
Hawks I don't begrudge, as that is their food source. I love and have compassion for all animals, and the drought has so affected the food source for all animals, I am reluctant to try to keep any animal from my bird baths.
But, I will switch my seed, and hopefully the grackles will not continue coming to eat the sparrows. Thank you so much for the info.
Houston, Texas

Anonymous said...

This is so unique, as we have the same identical birds in our backyard in West Houston, somewhat near to Katy, Texas. What is so unique is the fact that we too, have abundant amount of white wing doves, sparrows, blue jays' a single reg bird, Cardinal, male and female as well and an occasional hawk. Now today (Cinco de Mayo weekend, 2013) we're getting Grackles as well. They are eating my new crop of peaches, now ready to pick.

Anonymous said...

lol. I hear all of your plees (spelling?). I have two nice fruit trees. And orange and a tangerine tree. Once the fruits get to about two inches around I've got grackles a plenty just nibbling away on the fruit rind or peeling. HOw the heck do I keep them off and from doing this?

Anonymous said...

Normally, sparrows are over abundant and are kind of the "vermin" of the bird family. Around here, (Manitoba, Canada) I would never begrudge a grackle of a sparrow! I would rather have something that keeps the insects under anyway. lol

Unknown said...

By reading the other comments it seems that these Grackles follow their food sources because I'm in Ontario Canada and I have been seeing the same bunch of birds together.