Bird Discrimination (or The Grackle Invasion)

Bird Discrimination (or The Grackle Invasion)

As a woman of color this is going to be a shameful post to write. I mean really, I should just know better … but the truth is that earlier this year I was a true blue, dyed-in-the-wool, full-blown bird discriminator.  “What,” you say, “how can this be… you… discriminating??” Well, let me explain.

Have you heard of grackles? Even the name sounds unpleasant doesn’t it? For the uninitiated, grackles are a dark (as in color, but the same can be said of their temperament at times) member of the bird family Icteridae  (useful Jeopardy/Trivial Pursuit information).

If you search for information about grackles on the internet (as I did, when I wanted to identify the new bird that had come to my yard), you’ll be amazed by the number of articles written about how to get rid of them. Initially I was stunned by this.  Yes, I did think they were scary looking, but getting rid of them because of their appearance seemed to be overkill to me.  Eventually, as these birds increasingly descended upon my seemingly idyllic backyard birdfeeder paradise,  I came to completely understand why the net was littered with anti-grackle advice.

Day after day, as I happily watched new feathered friends visit my snack emporium, more and more of these iridescent, black, yellow-eyed birds would be part of the mix.  Around this time I also started noticing how quickly the birdfeeders were being depleted.  At first I blamed it on squirrels…

 Shocked squirrel asking "who us?"

…but then I started realizing that every time I looked out the window, grackles were on every feeder practically inhaling seed and suet that hadn’t come cheap.  They even greedily gathered on the ground and ate fallen seed that, up to that point, had been meals for mourning doves, chipmunks, etc.

 Grackles feeding on the ground

But there was more to the problem.  Financial ruin aside, these creepy looking birds were frightening all of the other birds away.  It wasn’t just because of their imposing size; these passerines (more useful trivia… a.k.a. perching bird) were downright mean bullies.  Yes, bullies.  Violent bullies that poked mercilessly at other birds and often shoved them off perches.  These guys had to go.

So now I was reading those aforementioned how-to articles.  I tried nearly every suggestion to eliminate grackles from my happy home: letting the feeders go empty for a while, changing over to only black oil sunflower seeds, shortening tube feeder perches, eliminating suet altogether or making the suet cages harder to reach.  At first nothing worked… the little buggers adapted.   They studied the other birds, saw how they reached food and then copied them.  They got braver about what they would try.

Impressive, but I wasn’t going to be beaten.  I too could be persistent, and I was.  I greased easy access paths to suet (grackles can’t land sideways easily so they were miffed.)  I fed only thistle seed in sock feeders or tight weave wire tubes for a while.  The war continued for weeks, but eventually … I … won!  The grackles gave up and, I guess, found greener easier pastures.   Woo hoo! ( A slightly guilt ridden “woo hoo” to be honest, but “woo hoo” nonetheless.)  Paradise restored.

These days there is an occasional sparrow squabble, a squirrel might freak out a mourning dove or two, but those are momentary blips.  Peace is more often the norm.  I’ll admit that there are days however, when not much is going on at the feeders, that I actually find myself missing the crazy drama of the grackles …. but then I snap out of it.

There is always next year.  But, don’t count on grackle jewelry anytime soon.


  1. Marie
    Nov 8, 2012

    I have to take down suet and sunflower seed feeders over the summer due to their appetites. I have a few small feeders that the chickadees and finches can use but that the big bodied grackles cannot. I am always happy for fall when most of them leave and I get a better variety of birds. But grackles are quite beautiful, especially when seen in full sunlight. Not black at all but purple, green, rust…you name it, just full of sparkling color.

    • Myriam
      Nov 11, 2012

      I do have to agree that their feathers are wonderfully iridescent in the sun and I have marveled at how lovely grackles are then. Thanks for making a case for them 🙂

  2. Judith Ann Mcdermott
    Oct 13, 2012

    Hey your blog design is very nice, clean and fresh. Makes people smile. I always like browsing your site.

  3. Janine
    Sep 19, 2012

    Quite enlightening, Myriam! I like the face of the squirrel, looks like it’s saying “Why is everything wrong blamed on me?”
    And here I was just planning on a custom order for a grackle pendant… Too bad! 🙂

    • Myriam
      Sep 19, 2012

      Too funny Janine. I suppose I could do a custom order. Hmmm…let me think…um…nope. 🙂 Can’t happen.
      Thanks so much for reading!

  4. Mary Ellen
    Sep 19, 2012

    HAHAHAHAHA! I too have a love/hate relationship with grackles, Myr. Especially after having to endure a pair of them SCREAMING at me because I dared to do some pruning on my maple tree and one of their baby buggers got dislodged in the process. Never mind that I carefully put their offspring back in the tree and retreated to the front porch. Their “fingernails on a chalkboard” screeches were like an abusive verbal assault on my nerves.

    Congrats on removing the flying piggies from your feeders without resorting to extreme measures.

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