How to Deal with Bully Birds at Your Feeders

Free up your backyard feeders for your favorite songbirds by learning how to discourage bully birds such as blue jays and blackbirds.

blue jayCourtesy Lorraine Lynch

Blue Jays

Yes, they’re beautiful and recognizable, but blue jays are known for causing a ruckus at feeders. They are exceptionally smart, so it’s not easy to outwit them with fancy jay-proof feeders. Your best bet for dealing with these beauties is to give them space and a feeder of their own. Serve peanuts in a feeder or put sunflower seeds in a large hopper feeder in an isolated area.

“I call blue jays ‘beautiful bully birds’ because they, along with grackles and starlings, can empty a peanut feeder in less than an hour. I use a cage around one peanut feeder to allow only smaller birds, like chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers, to feed. The jays get their own cage-free peanut feeder,” says Deanna Frautschi, Bloomington, Illinois.

Learn 6 fascinating facts about blue jays.

common grackles on bird feederCourtesy Daniel Sexton

Common Grackles

Catch a glimpse of these birds in the right light and you’ll see their shiny, iridescent feathers. Removing feeder perches (or shortening them) should discourage grackles; like many large birds, grackles can’t cling to feeders to eat. Some backyard birders say grackles don’t like safflower seeds, so if you have a serious problem with them, adjust your food offerings. A lot of bully birds tend to leave nyjer (thistle) alone, too.

Check out the 3 types of seed and feeders birds love best.

European starlingsCourtesy Kenneth Cohen

European Starlings

Extremely aggressive when it comes to feeders and nesting sites, starlings have a bad reputation. These boisterous bully birds love suet and it’s not uncommon for them to gobble up an entire suet cake in a single day. Look for starling-proof feeders (food is accessible only from the bottom) or set up a suet feeder under a squirrel baffle to deter them.

“Starlings, grackles, blue jays and the odd magpie come to my feeders and also stop for water. Instead of discouraging them, I spread several feeders full of different types of seed around the backyard,” says Ken Orich, Lethbridge, Alberta.

Get answers to 5 frequently asked questions about feeding suet to birds.

red-winged blackbirdCourtesy Richard Nimtz
Red-winged blackbird flying with a sunflower seed

Blackbirds, Pigeons and Crows

One solution for keeping blackbirds and other bully birds out is to install a tray underneath feeders. It will catch any seed cast aside by songbirds and keep it off the ground. If you still have trouble with these birds, try feeders with weighted perches. When a large bird or squirrel lands on the perch, a cover drops over the food.

“We try to accommodate all of the birds, but it seems that in different circumstances any bird can be a bully! My mourning doves are the bullies of the tray feeder. And I’ve even seen a titmouse chase Carolina wrens from the mealworms,” says Boni Trombetta, West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Discover the best way to attract birds that don’t visit bird feeders.