I love to feed birds, but I want to discourage grackles, starlings and sparrows that are so greedy and eat so much of the seed. What can I do?
The first thing you can try is setting up a feeder that is specifically designed for small birds. Choose a tube feeder with small perches and no catch basin on which larger birds can perch. A cage around the tube feeder will let smaller birds through but will keep out larger birds and squirrels. If house finches become a problem at your thistle feeder, try a feeder where the ports are below the perches. Only birds like goldfinches that hang upside down to feed will be able to eat there. Avoid platform trays and don't spread food on the ground, where the larger aggressive species can access it. Don't offer seed mixes with corn, millet, or milo, which grackles and pigeons enjoy. If starlings are gobbling down your suet, offer it in a container open only at the bottom, requiring birds to feed hanging upside down. Woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches do this naturally, but starlings cannot. By trying these things you may reduce the amount of food available for house sparrows or European starlings. These birds are not native to the United States and aggressively compete with native birds for food and nesting sites.