How to (Safely) Deter Nuisance Birds From Perching

Updated: Dec. 13, 2023

Birds can make a mess if they perch in undesirable places. Get expert tips to deter birds from perching and manage aggressive feeder birds.

how to deter birdsSteve and Dave Maslowski
Birders may love cardinals, but they don’t want them soiling their mailbox

“My mailbox is constantly soiled by robins and other birds that love to sit on it. Is there anything I can do to deter them?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Mady Breeden of Bear, Delaware.

Bird experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “Birds in our yards bring joy to our lives, but in some places their waste can be problematic. Fortunately, harmless products are available to prevent birds from perching in certain areas. These range from strips of flexible spikes to small reflective spinners that can be mounted in place. Or you might try a floral arrangement made specifically to attach to a mailbox; you could add a reflective spinner to seasonal flowers.

Be sure to check with your local post office, though, before altering your mailbox. And never use glue traps or other products that can seriously harm birds.

Learn how to get rid of blackbirds and grackles at feeders.

Readers Share Tips to Safely Deter Aggressive Birds

305392762 1 Jacqueline Fazio Bnb Pc 2022Courtesy Jacqueline Fazio
Try these strategies to deter aggressive birds like this common grackle.

Add a Baffle

“My favorite bird feeder has customizable perches and a large slippery dome. Heavier birds are too big for the feeder, and squirrels slide right off!” says Pat Brown of Springfield, Virginia.

Offer Suet Not Seeds

“Upside-down suet feeders mostly attract nuthatches and woodpeckers, not bullies,” says field editor Jennifer Broadstreet Hess of Marion, Kansas.

On the subject of suet, Anita Burrell of Indian Trail, North Carolina, adds, “I keep plenty of suet at several places around the yard. I have eight to 10 suet feeders, and all the birds eat it. I like to think they all get some, even the bully birds.”

Try a Caged Feeder

“Rock pigeons mobbed my feeders, so I bought green vinyl-coated wire mesh with 2-by-3-inch holes to surround the trays. Small songbirds get in, but pigeons can’t!” says Andrew Rivinus of Canby, Oregon.

Look for a Feeder With Small Perches

“Most of my aggressive birds are large, so I try to use several types of feeders, like tube feeders with small perches for smaller birds. I often leave seeds below the feeders for larger birds. They all get a chance to eat!” says field editor Juli Seyfried of Grove City, Ohio.

Offer a Variety of Feeders

nuisance birds, european starlingCourtesy Melissa Towe
European starlings are beautiful, but they make a mess at feeders so you may want to deter these birds.

Field editor Kathy Lorigan of Easton, Pennsylvania, offers a diverse menu for her feathered friends. “I try to cater specifically to my backyard visitors. I have about 10 different feeders, and when I serve what each species prefers—no fights!”

Switch to Safflower Seeds

“I only use safflower seeds! Grackles (and squirrels) don’t like them, but they attract cardinals, finches, chickadees and more,” says Laurin McCarley of Clover, South Carolina.

Spread out the Sugar Water

Bnbhc18 Anne DonovanCourtesy Anne Donovan
Offer multiple feeders so ruby-throated hummingbirds have ample space.

“I keep aggressive hummingbirds to a minimum by placing multiple feeders in my front yard and a few in the back. Bullies can’t be in two places at once, so the others get a chance to sip nectar too!” says Rebecca McLaughlin of Flatwoods, Kentucky.

Give Blue Jays Their Own Feeder

Blue,jay, ,isolated,on,white,background,with,peanut,inJim Cumming/Shutterstock
Offer a peanuts feeder for blue jays to give smaller songbirds more space.

Blue jays were our biggest culprit. Now we put out peanuts for them, and they leave the feeders alone,” says field editor Robin Evans of Export, Pennsylvania.

Stop Feeding Until Bully Birds Leave

“Temporarily pause feeding the flock of aggressive birds until they move on,” suggests Linda DiGasper of Red Hook, New York.

Next, check out the best squirrel-proof bird feeders and 12 tips that work.