Have you heard your first red-winged blackbird yet? Conk-la-reee… a sure sign that spring is truly on its way. I always look forward to the return of the red-wings. However, that also means that the grackles will be close behind. I know from listening to your questions over the years that there are some birds you would rather not encourage to visit your feeders. The main question I hear is, ‘how do I keep grackles away, and is there any way to keep starlings away from suet feeders’. The answer is yes!
I spent a day this week cleaning my feeders and deciding which ones I would leave out and which ones I will put away until fall migration is underway. Starlings have been cleaning out my suet feeders within 2 or 3 days, and they sure arrive in extremely large flocks. Last year I decided to invest in a caged suet feeder. My choice was the Squirrel Resistant Suet Palace, but any caged feeder will work. This feeder holds two suet cakes. By leaving the metal plate that sits under the suet off, larger woodpeckers such as the hairy and red-bellied will be able to feed from the underside, just as they would with an up-side-down suet feeder. Up-side-down suet feeders are another choice for you. Woodpeckers don’t mind feeding from these feeders, but starlings… not so much. At this time of year you can also use pure suet to fend off the starlings as they prefer the flavoured varieties, however, you need to know that during the hot summer months pure suet can melt.
The next question is how to keep feeding smaller birds sunflower hearts such as goldfinches, house finches, chickadees and downy woodpeckers. I chose to go with a caged feeder again to let the little guys feed in peace. Many manufacturers including Droll Yankees, Stokes, Audubon, Gardman and Woodlink offer different styles of these feeders. Brome Bird Care also offers feeders that allow you to adjust the weight to fend off bigger birds. This works to a degree, but grackes have taught themselves that if they flap their wings they can still manage to steal a few morsels of seed.
Now, how to keep feeding cardinals and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Safflower is a favourite of theirs and thankfully the larger bully birds don’t like this seed. By offering Safflower in a nice hopper feeder, you will invite cardinals, grosbeaks and house finches to dine in your garden. One of my favourite feeders for safflower seed is the Sky Cafe by Arundale. This feeder has a great feeding tray that the cardinals and grosbeaks love. You can also add a dove guard to keep mourning doves from overtaking the safflower seed.
Nyjer seed and finch and friends can also be offered in separate feeders. The feeding portals on a nyjer feeder are too small for large birds to feed from. I don’t mind the red-winged black birds and they are content to feed from my Droll Yankees Clever Clean Feeder which I use to offer finch and friends or white millet. These blackbirds have a slender bill which allows them to feed from this feeder. I have a separate clinger feeder for nyjer as well that keeps the many goldfinches accommodated.
Next month I will be setting up my oriole and hummingbird feeding station. Something to look forward to! Oh… and as I have been sitting at the table writing this blog, the first grackle has arrived in the yard. Good thing I set up my ‘spring feeders’ yesterday.
Happy Spring Birding!