Why The Common Grackle Isn't A Bird Breed You'll Want In Your Back Yard

Common grackles might look intriguing with their sleek black tail feathers, shimmery heads, and glowing yellow eyes, but most people with bird feeders would prefer they didn't frequent their yards. Why's that? They can be loud and messy for one thing. But the main reason is that when it comes to bellying up to the feeder, common grackles tend to ruin the party with obnoxious behavior and just completely take over the area. In short, their species is prone to bullying and can even be predatory right in your own backyard.

They not only flock together, common grackles also hang with other types of black birds forming huge, problematic gangs. Even a small group of common grackles can be intimidating to the smaller feathered friends birders do want in their yards. Unfortunately, the issues they cause just get worse from there. There are, however, a few things you can do to discourage their presence at your bird feeder and just keep their problematic behavior out of your yard in general.

Coping with common grackles at your bird feeders

If you're an aspiring birder, you certainly don't want to have to give up your feeder to keep a flock of hungry common grackles away. Not to worry. These birds feed on the ground as their mainstay, so you might be able to get away with sprinkling some extra seed near or below your feeder. There's a good chance they'll stay low doing their pecking and let other birds have what's offered up high. Just be sure not to leave too much seed out at one time since that can cause mice and rats to make an unwanted visit to your yard.

If that doesn't work, expert birders Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman offered a solution to Birds & Blooms: "To deal with the big appetites and messy habits of grackles, the best approach is to switch to different styles of feeders. Hanging tube-style feeders with short perches will attract finches and other small birds, but grackles find them hard to use."

Suet feeders and wire cages installed around feeders can also allow smaller birds to access them while keeping common grackles out. While you may not be able to banish them completely, with a little extra care you keep common grackles from taking over your bird feeders.

Dealing with other problems related to common grackles

The hard truth when it comes to crackles is that they'll eat almost anything including food stolen from other birds, crops still in fields, and fish plucked from streams. That means your raised garden beds and koi ponds with small fish can both be at risk when they're around. Even worse, they've been known to cannibalize other species of birds. 

Common grackles squat in the domains of other birds as well. They've been known to take over a nest or birdhouse intended for another species, sometimes while they're still in use. Because they travel in large flocks, they can also make a terrible mess when they're roosting. If you have a tree that hangs over a patio where grackles decide to make an overnight home, expect to be hosing your outdoor spaces down frequently. 

Beyond changing out your bird feeder, what can you do to keep common grackles at bay? Some solutions like installing a pest decoy may work long enough to get them to move along, but they may also scare away the more desirable birds so that's a point to keep in mind. You'll also want to consider covering plants yielding fruits and veggies with netting as well as keeping water sources dry while these scavengers are being a nuisance. With some effort, you can discourage them from taking up residence in your yard and get back to enjoying your favorite songbirds.