Build a Grackle-Proof Bird Feeder

Does the great grackle beset your bird feeder? This weight-activated feeder will shut out such heavy birds and squirrels as well.

| May/June 1983

  • grackle proof bird feeder - front view
    This bird feeder is for lighter weight breeds — anything up to a cardinal. Any time a critter as heavy as a grackle lands on the perch, a door falls, closing off the feed.
    Photo by Rory Orgill
  • grackle proof bird feeder - front view, spikes on roof
    The spikes prevent acrobatic squirrels from robbing the feeder from the counterweighted perch.
    Rory Orgill
  • grackle proof bird feeder - side view
    A side view of the feeder shows the counterweight mechanism.
    Rory Orgill

  • grackle proof bird feeder - front view
  • grackle proof bird feeder - front view, spikes on roof
  • grackle proof bird feeder - side view

I love watching birds, so a few years ago I set three bird feeders out in the yard near our house and was soon playing host to a delightful variety of winged visitors. Cardinals, chickadees, and nuthatches flitted about the stations regularly, a dozen or more sparrows actually set up residence nearby, and every evening a redheaded woodpecker would stop in for supper.

All went well for my feathered friends and me, until the grackles came.

At first only a few of the noisy jay-sized fowl arrived, but soon squadrons of the gluttonous raiders — 20, 30, and even 40 at a crack — were swooping down on the feeders and helping themselves to enormous quantities of grain. My immediate response was to resent the invasions, then almost as quickly I felt guilty about my reaction. After all, I had set out the devices to attract "warmblooded vertebrates with feathers and forelimbs modified as wings." Like it or not, the blackbirds qualified.

However, my guilt was short-lived, and soon gave way to annoyance — and then rage — as the size of the hordes and the frequency of their visits increased. They quickly tripled my weekly feed bills and, worse yet, frightened away virtually all of my other winged visitors. Only the quick, nervy sparrows dared to dart in (on those rare occasions when the grackles were gone) to snitch a few bites from what had become the blackbirds' private hoard.

Enough was enough! In an attempt to solve the problem, I took down two of the feeders — a platform type and a trough-style model — and shortened the perches on the remaining cylinder feeder so that only the daintier backyard birds could get both feet on it. The ruse worked ... for about a day and a half. Although the big bandits had to spend some time getting a grip on the problem, they soon learned to grasp the sawed-off perch with one claw and to flap the opposite wing to maintain their balance, while they fed ... and fed ... and fed.

By that time, I (who had never owned a firearm) found myself reading shotgun ads and wondering where I could find a recipe for "four and twenty blackbird pie." Reason prevailed, however, in the form of a flash of inspiration: If I couldn't turn their size against them (those 747's of backyard "bird-dom"), maybe I could use their weight to force them off the dole. Hmmmmm....

7/12/2016 6:59:04 PM

Well, I just typed out a long message here, and found out I had to join first, and lost the whole I'll just get right to the point. First of all, love the humor! But, this is no laughing matter, as I am experiencing this very problem right now! I'm tired of having to make the locals go without, while I take a week or two off from filling the feeder, and only to find that they keep coming back anyway! I would like to try making this feeder, and would appreciate any tips or advise to help me out, since I've never done anything like this before. I'm in the middle of making a Grackle-proof feeder right now out of plastic, and it's not turning out so well. Thank you for your time. Have a great day! Sincerely, Darla Scott



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