Have you ever noticed a crow-like bird in your backyard, only it is noisier and more disturbing than them? Well, it means that the grackles have found their way into your yard. These birds are not only noisy and gluttonous, but they’re also huge bullies that drive away many of the smaller birds you might adore.
Pesky as they are, they are not easy to get rid of, either. However, while driving them away might not be easy, it is not impossible either. In this article, we are going to help you keep grackles away from your bird feeders.
Here are a few useful ways to keep grackles away from your bird feeders:
- Purchase a caged bird feeder – If you already have an uncaged feeder, modify it by adding a cage around it.
- Go for an upside-down feeder – Since grackles face difficulty in hanging upside down, they will be unable to use this feeder.
- Keep the area under and around the feeder clean – The absence of stray seeds fallen from the feeder will remove the food source that might attract the grackles.
- Grackle-repellent tools and devices – There are many grackle repellent tools available in the market such as liquid bird repellent, reflective objects, scarecrows of grackle predators, etc. However, be careful before using them. Some of these might repel away other birds as well.
- Get professional help
Let’s dive in and learn in detail about different ways you can stop grackles feeding on your bird feeders.
Why are grackles problematic?
If any of you have not had a problem with grackles in the past, you might be wondering why we’re helping you repel these birds from your yard. Well, the following are the things grackles do that can be troublesome for you and your family:
- Grackles are highly social and flock in a large group of not just their own species but also with other blackbird species. If their crowd frequents on your property, a large amount of waste they produce alone can be a pain to clean.
- Their waste can also degrade your property by corroding the metal, paint, and other surfaces.
- Due to their tendency to eat from human garbage, these birds carry several disease-causing germs, and some of them could impact you, too.
- Grackles are noisy birds that keep talking incessantly in a voice that is not even pleasant to hear. Once they’re familiar with your yard, you will never have a moment of peace and quiet again.
- If you’re a birder, grackles can be your nightmares. They’re aggressive and larger than the common backyard birds, making it easy for them to bully the others out of your yard. They’ll gobble on all the seeds you’ve put in no time and can also destroy your feeders.
- Grackles are also a menace to the farm fields and have been the cause of serious agricultural losses in the country.
Grackle species that you’re likely to see in your yard
While the Common Grackles are infamous in North America for their destructive behavior and loud noises, these are not the only grackle species you should worry about. Besides them, two other grackle species can be found in this region as well. And although their populations are not as abundant as the former, they’re equally capable of creating havoc in your yard.
Let’s learn a little more about these grackle species:
1. Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
- Lifespan: 22 years
- Average weight: 110 grams
- Length: 11-13 inches
- Wingspan: 14-18 inches
- Population status: near threatened
Just as their name suggests, the Common Grackles are the most widespread grackle species in North America. These medium-sized birds belong to the Icterid family and can be found across all the open and semi-open habitats throughout the continent.
Common grackles have black wings and a long black tail, with the rest of their body covered in black with an iridescent shade of blue, green, or purple. Their eyes are pale yellow with a dark bill.
These birds display sexual dimorphism, with the males being slightly larger than their female counterparts and sporting a brighter plumage. The females also have a shorter tail than them.
2. Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)
- Lifespan: 12 years
- Average weight: 150 grams
- Length: 13-18 inches
- Wingspan: 15-20 inches
- Population status: least concern
Named after their long, keel-shaped tail, the Boat-tailed grackles are another grackle species found almost exclusively in the coastal areas of the southwestern United States. Frequenting in inland waters as well as saltwater marshes, these birds have established a significant population in the United States.
Boat-tailed Grackles are sexually dimorphic, with the males being significantly larger than their female counterparts. And that’s not all; they display sexual dimorphism in their coloration as well.
The males have an overall black body covered in iridescent sheen, while only the wings and tail of the females are dark, with the rest of their body being tawny brown in color.
3. Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)
- Lifespan: 12 years
- Average weight: 160 grams
- Length: 15-18 inches
- Wingspan: 19-22 inches
- Population status: least concern
Also referred to as the “Mexican Grackle”, the Great-tailed Grackles are a large grackle species found in the southern parts of the United States and in Mexico. In Mexico, these birds are often called “Cuervo”, which means “crow”.
Of all the grackle species found in North America, the Great-tailed Grackles resemble crows most closely (although they’re slightly smaller in size). The adult males have an iridescent black body with a blue sheen on their head and upper body.
Due to sexual dimorphism, the females are smaller than the males in size and have a brown body with darker wings and tails.
How can you keep grackles away from bird feeders?
Are you a bird enthusiast who is frustrated with the grackles wreaking havoc in your yard? Getting rid of the grackles can be more challenging for the birders as most of the grackle-repelling measures can drive the other birds away, too, and you wouldn’t want that.
In this section, we will discuss some measures the birders can employ to drive the grackles away without disturbing the other backyard birds. Keep reading to learn more.
Grackle-proof your feeder
It is no secret that if the grackles are frequenting in a backyard with feeders, these feeders are their main attraction. Being the seed-lovers that they are, they gorge on all the seeds from your feeder, often leaving nothing behind for the other birds.
Therefore, if you’re trying to drive the grackles away, securing your feeders from them is the first step you should take. But how would you grackle-proof the feeders in your yard? Don’t worry; we’ll walk you through it.
If you have not purchased a feeder or are about to buy a new one, it would be best to go with caged feeders that are specifically designed to keep grackles away. If you’re willing to walk an extra mile, consider getting a weight-activated feeder.
These feeders can determine when a heavier animal or bird is perched on them and will shut all the feeding ports close when that happens. They will not only keep the grackles away but will also protect your backyard birds against critters like skunks and squirrels.
Alternatively, you can also make a couple of modifications to your current feeders. Caging them is the first thing you need to do; it will ensure that only the small birds can access the seeds and not large ones like the grackles.
If you keep a suet feeder in your yard, get one that hangs upside down. These feeders are extremely inconvenient for the grackles that do not like twisting their bodies upside down to eat.
Keep the area under and around your bird feeders clean
Did you know that grackle-proofing your bird feeder is only going to solve half of your grackle problem? While it protects the seeds inside the feeder from the grackle, what about the seeds outside of it? If you’ve been a birder for some time, you must’ve noticed how many backyard birds are messy eaters, often spilling more seeds than they eat.
All the fallen seeds that these birdies spill end up becoming a food source to the grackles, inviting them into your yard. If you don’t want this to happen, you will have to be consistent about cleaning your yard thoroughly, particularly the area right below their feeder. You can also consider putting a tray below their feeder to make your job easier.
Bring the feeders in for a while
The last thing any birder would want is to take away the food source that draws backyard birds to their backyard. However, if the grackle problem seems to have gone out of your hands, it might be the best choice you have. And if you do it properly, it will take only a while to get rid of the grackles.
First, try to notice the period around which the grackles usually fly into your yard. Then, start bringing your feeder an hour before that time, and keep it in for 4-5 hours, after which they’re unlikely to return. If you continue this for about a week, the grackles will be tired of not finding food in your yard and move on to another yard.
Other tips and tricks
Now, let’s talk about the people who are not birders but struggle to drive away grackles from their property. The job becomes much easier for these people, as they can use tools and devices that might drive away other birds. Let’s tell you how it’s done:
Proper waste disposal
The most organic yet efficient way to get rid of grackles is to take away any food source that might draw them to your yard.
These icterids are often found looking for food in human garbage, also trying to pry open their garbage bags. Your garbage bags, if not disposed of properly, might work as an attraction for them.
Thus, we would recommend you to take waste disposal seriously. It will not only keep your surroundings hygienic but will also drive any unwanted guest away.
Try using bird-repellent tools and devices
Bird netting is the most durable solution to drive the grackles away from your yard. There are various bird nets out there, made of different materials. For keeping grackles out, the light steel netting would work perfectly.
The proper installation of the net is essential if you want it to work. If you’ve never installed bird netting, it would be a good idea to get professional assistance. Once the net is in place, the grackles will have no way of getting into your yard.
Liquid bird repellent
Liquid bird repellents are made of methyl-anthranilate, a chemical responsible for their bitterness and foul smell. It acts as an aggressive stimulant to the grackles’ trigeminal system, discouraging them from revisiting your property.
In addition to the grackles, these repellents also work well on seagulls, cormorants, pigeons, blackbirds, crows, sparrows, geese, and other birds.
As you might already know, reflective objects can confuse all birds, as the light reflected by them unnaturally seems like a threat to them. Grackles are no exception to it and usually steer clear of properties that have plenty of reflective surfaces.
If you don’t have a reflective surface on your property, you can install some around your house just to drive them. The job is easier than it might sound; you can make your own reflective grackle-deterrent tool at home, using CDs. However, if you’re not in a mood for DIY, there are various options available in stores as well as online.
Scarecrows of grackle predators
Grackles might enjoy bullying around smaller birds, but they’re not all high and mighty in the avian world, either. Like the other icterids, these birds are often preyed on by the birds of prey, such as several hawks, kites, harrier, and owl species.
If you can hang a scarecrow of one of these raptors, it might lead to the grackles running for their lives. However, make sure not to leave out a single scarecrow for too long, or the grackles might suspect that something’s fishy.
How would you feel if someone suddenly threw a bucket of water at you? Not pleasant, right? Well, birds are the same. They hate surprises and are particularly wary of ones where they’re sprayed with water.
If you install motion-activated sprinklers in your yard, and the grackles end up being a victim of it, they will think twice before returning there.
Get professional help
If you have tried everything we have suggested above but still cannot seem to get rid of the pesky grackles, it is time to let the experts handle it. You must contact your local animal control service and let them take care of it. While it might cost you money, the peace you receive when the birds are gone is going to be worth every penny.
Frequently asked questions
Do grackles migrate?
All grackles have mixed reactions towards winters. Some individuals travel south in search of warmth and food, while others choose to flock together and brave the winters on their breeding grounds. You can call these birds “partially migratory”.
Are grackles related to crows?
No, they’re not. Despite the similarities in their appearance, grackles are not related to crows, ravens, or any other member of the corvid family.
Do grackles mate for life?
No, they do not. Grackles only stay monogamous to their sexual partners for one breeding season and often seek out a different mate in the following year.
Can grackles mimic sound?
Yes, they can. It might come as a surprise to many, but grackles are quite skilled at mimicking the calls and songs of the other birds.
Grackles are the icterids that look very much like the smaller cousins of crows, although the two aren’t related. While these birds might appear harmless, if they’ve started frequenting in your yard or garden, you’re going to have a difficult time keeping it clean.
Not to mention all the noisiness and bullying they bring along. If you’ve gone through the tips and tricks mentioned above, you might be successful in getting rid of these pesky birds on your own.