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Friday, March 19, 2010

Feeder Friday: Coming and Going

American Tree Sparrow, note the clear breast with central breast dot an ID clue.

Common Grackle

Common Grackle in flight, holding tail in "V"

Chickadee feeding from Stokes Select Squirrel-Proof Feeder which deters grackles (and squirrels).

Lots of activity here at the bird feeders, with migrants arriving and other birds, such as Tree Sparrows, about to leave. Tree Sparrows, unlike their name, like shrubby field areas, not heavily treed habitat. They visit our feeders all winter and soon will return to their breeding grounds north of the tree line in arctic areas. Right now they are singing, a warm-up for them and a delight for us!

Common Grackles have arrived big time, along with Red-winged Blackbirds. Not everyone wants grackles at their bird feeders. Here is some information and tips to controlling grackles at feeders.

- Common Grackles migrate out of the northern parts of their range in winter, and travel in large, noisy flocks, often with other blackbirds such as Red-winged Blackbirds. During the breeding season, the male flies with his tail held in a "V" shape. Common Grackles nest in colonies or singly.

- Common Grackles are found in many habitats, such as agricultural fields, city parks, feedlots, suburban areas, forest edges and marshes.

- Grackles walk around the ground, looking for food and will eat a very wide variety of items, including crops, especially corn, grain, insects, bird’s eggs, mice, frogs, acorns, and fruit. They like all kinds of bird seeds, especially cracked corn, and will descend on feeders sometimes in numbers, eat large quantities of seed, and may discourage the small birds from feeding.

- Grackles can easily eat from many kinds of bird feeders, such as tube feeders, platform feeders and hoppers, as well as eating seed off the ground, so do not use these if you want to discourage grackles or add the types of feeders grackles cannot feed from.

- One of the very best ways to keep grackles off bird seed and reserve the seed for smaller birds such as chickadees, titmice, finches, nuthatches, etc., is to use tube feeders surrounded by a cage. The distance from the side of the cage to the tube must be far enough to deter grackles. The Stokes Select Squirrel-Proof Feeder (available from retailers and online, note a percentage of profits goes to bird conservation) is an excellent way to discourage grackles (as well as squirrels!) from seed. Grackles are too large to fit through the holes in the cage, but smaller birds can easily enter and feed from the tube. We used several of our Stokes Select Squirrel-Proof feeders to prevent grackles from seed, when we lived in FL and had flocks of wintering grackles visiting our yard. We use these feeders here in NH when grackles are here, to make sure the smaller birds have seed.

- If you use suet, put it in the kind of suet holder where the suet can only be accessed from below, requiring a bird to hover or cling upside down, something grackles do not like to do.

Note: If you have not put up birdhouses, or cleaned out your old ones, now is the time! Bluebirds and others are actively looking for boxes.

Have a good weekend.


Ruth's Photo Blog said...

The arrival of the spring migrants is such a welcome sight.We are still waiting for most of them.The local Hawk Watch(Pembina Valley,Manitoba) has begun and the numbers are good for this time of year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great info, I'm going to get a Stokes squirrel proof feeder plus a birdhouse this weekend!

Anonymous said...

During the summer I offer only nyger and safflower seed in my feeders. This seems to discouage the grackles.

Joy K. said...

Are cardinals small enough to get in the grackle-proof feeder you described?

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Cardinals do feed in the Stokes Squirrel-Proof feeder, but it varies depending on the individual birds. In FL we had a pair who fed regularly from this feeder. In NH our cardinals like platform feeders, feeders with ledges, or the ground to feed.