Birdwatching is supposed to be relaxing right?

And it is…until…there’s a flurry of feathers at your feeder. Your amiable chickadees and finches are fleeing and your bird feeder is taken over by bullies. So what are you supposed to do to keep bully birds at bay? How can you keep the peace? We’ve got five suggestions that’ll make your feeder a safe haven for your feathered friends.

What are bully birds?

red-winged blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Truthfully, some birds get a bad rap. Yes they barge their way to the feeder to get their tummies filled first. But it’s just in their nature. You see, some birds are programmed to be a little more territorial when it comes to their food. And they’re willing to make some enemies if it means they won’t go hungry. What species are common bully birds? There’s a laundry list of them: Blackbirds, Grackles, Pigeons, House Sparrows, European Starlings, Blue Jays and Mourning Doves.

Bigger bully birds like Blue Jays will often grab plenty of seed from the feeder and fly away to store it. Smaller bully birds like House Sparrows will visit feeders in flocks and keep other birds away from the feeders. Unfortunately, others will even consider the feeder their territory and will chase away any birds that pop by to grab some grub.

How to deter a bully bird

If you’re struggling to keep bully birds away from your feeders or, at the very least, encourage your backyard birds to get along, we’ve got some tips for you!

Do buy a feeder for the birds you want to attract. Did you know that you can buy bird feeders with cages attached to prevent larger birds from accessing them? These caged tube-feeders will make the feeder fit only for smaller birds like finches.

Do switch up the foods you’re offering. Bully birds love to chow down on sunflower seeds, millet, corn and wheat. If you stop offering these foods, you might see fewer and fewer bully bird species. Instead, offer nyjer seed in tube feeders for finches, and safflower seed in tray feeders for Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees and nuthatches!

Don’t keep the perches on your feeders. Most feeders come equipped with perches and bully birds need those to grab a hold of the feeder while they eat. Luckily, many smaller birds don’t need a perch at all! They’ll easily grab onto the side of a tube feeder and eat to their heart’s delight!

Do buy a weight-activated feeder. Many bird lovers buy these kinds of feeders when squirrels start dominating the feeder, but did you know they also prevent bigger bully birds from feeding too? They can even stop flocks of birds from hogging the feeder!

Do feed the bullies. This tip may raise a few eyebrows, but sometimes…if  you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Create a corner in your backyard (preferably as far away as possible from your feeders) to offer sunflower seeds, millet, corn and wheat to bully birds. Place these foods on a tray feeder and you will likely see your bully birds flocking to this corner of the garden, leaving your other birdfeeders and backyard birds alone to eat in peace.