How to Keep Blackbirds Away from the Bird Feeder

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Ken from the USA asked: The Starlings and Blackbirds are taking over my feeders! What can I do?

starlings and blackbirds are bullies

European Starling Grabbing Corn Kernels


Tips on How to Get Rid of “Bully” Birds to Free-Up Your Bird Feeders for Songbirds?

Hi Ken,

Thank you for asking! This is a huge problem for many people when backyard bird feeding.

It is very discouraging when the European Starlings and Blackbirds decide to make your feeding station their favorite dining spot.

There are other “bully” birds too including Grackles, Pigeons, European Starlings, and even House Sparrows.

But there are a few things you can do to hinder their success.

Many of the techniques described here will work for all or some of the “bully” birds listed here, even though this article mostly mentions Starlings and Blackbirds.

This is the Picture You Want to See!

Mixed Sizes of Wild Birds Eating Peacefully Together from a bird feeder
An image of 6 birds eating from a bird feeder. The birds are yellow and blue and there is flowers in the background.
Small Songbirds Enjoying With No Bullies



What Can You do to Prevent Pushy Birds, Like Starlings and Blackbirds, from Taking Over?

6 Ideas for Keeping Blackbirds Away from Feeders

Use the best bird feeders recommended here for defeating bully birds.

1. Hang feeders with adjustable perches that are triggered by weight. When a heavier bird lands on it the perch drops down locking the seed port from being accessed. The perches can be adjusted to the weight of the bird you want to exclude. The Squirrel Buster or the Yankee Flipper is the most effective of this style of feeder in my experience.

2. Clean out your feeders well and then fill them with safflower seed only. Some birds love safflower, especially Cardinals, Chickadees, and Nuthatches, but most birds do not. Including Starlings and some
Blackbirds. Keep this up for 2-3 weeks and hopefully, the unwanted ones will move on.

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Two blackbirds eating from a bird feeder
Grackles Taking Over Chalet Feeder

3. Use tube feeders which Starlings and Blackbirds cannot sit on. You could put up 2 or 3 offering sunflower seed, nyjer seed, and peanuts’n-shell. Just make sure the perches are short enough 1 to 1 1/2-inch-long so that small birds can still use them but the larger birds you do not want cannot sit on them. Wider tube feeders are also better than narrow ones, to prevent them from hanging onto one side and reaching around to eat from the other side.

4. A peanut’n-shell feeder will be successful in leaving out the Starlings as they are not strong enough to crack the shells. And just a caveat, Starlings love bread, doughnuts, muffins, or any other baked goods! So keep a table style feeder off on its own to feed this type of food if you wish.

“Bully” birds can be Blue Jays, House Sparrows, Grackles, Pigeons & Cowbirds, not just Starlings & Blackbirds.

5. Stop filling your feeders that the bully birds are visiting for 2-3 weeks and hopefully they will move on to another location. But the drawback to this is of course that you will lose the birds you want to see for a while too. But they will return!

6. Hang a dome baffle over top of a suet feeder. Starlings are reluctant to go under things and will very likely not bother with this feeder while it is under a baffle.

Here is a Plan for a Feeding Station that Will Leave Out Starlings & Blackbirds

grackle at platform feeder
Grackle Owning & Emptying a Platform Feeder
  1. If you have a variety of feeders that they cannot easily eat from they may become discouraged and leave your yard. Be selective in what feeders you use and target only the birds you want to see.
  2. Avoiding mixed seed that includes Milo, a seed Blackbirds love, is a wise choice and will produce happier results.
  3. Use tube feeders for finches with only nyjer seed in it. A special nyjer feeder has very small seed ports made especially for this tiny seed. You can purchase feeders made for nyjer seed that do not have perches, which the Finches cling to.
  4. There are also a variety of feeders for black-oil sunflower seed that are “clinging” feeders which only birds that cling can feed on such as Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Finches, etc. Blackbirds and Starlings find these types of feeders more difficult.
  5. In a very clean hopper feeder fill with safflower seed only. Even the slightest smell of peanuts or black-oil sunflower will draw the birds you don’t want. The Cardinals, Chickadees, and Nuthatches will love it!
  6. Hang any type of feeder in a cage with openings only small birds like Chickadees, Titmice, Finches, etc., can fit through. Large Woodpeckers, who you want to see, are still able to reach suet even when in a cage feeder, by using their long beaks and tongues.
  7. An upside down suet feeder will be harder for Starlings and Blackbirds to eat from, but Woodpeckers and Nuthatches will manage it easily. In my experience Blackbirds have no problem gobbling up the suet from this feeder, but it does slow the Starlings down.
An image of a cowbird sitting on a branch.
Cowbirds Travel In Numbers
An image of a bluejay standing on the ground.
Bluejays Are Big & Noisy
red-winged blackbird standing on a twig.
Blackbirds Visit In Migration

  1. Spread your feeders out rather than clustering all of them together. You will want to keep the feeders that are successful at not allowing the bully birds access, in one location as a bird feeding station. But, then move the others far enough away, each by themselves, out of sight from one another if possible. This strategy is for feeders that the bully birds can manage a little or for platform or table style feeders that you want to allow them to partake from.

With a carefully planned strategy, you can achieve tranquility at your bird feeders without the bully birds like Starlings and Blackbirds dominating the show.

A Selection of Feeders to Leave Starlings & Blackbirds Out

My Top Recommendations for Caged Bird Feeders
 To Keep “Bully” Birds Out

   Variety of Caged Feeders Here  

Thistle Seed & Finch Mixed Seed
(Finches love mixed seed too, but maybe not quite as much as straight thistle seed.)


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