Knoxville, Tennessee

Liz & Tony Cutrone

Liz & Tony Cutrone

We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.

Knoxville, Tennessee

7240 Kingston Pike,
Suite 164
Knoxville, TN 37919

Phone: (865) 337-5990
Fax: (865) 337-5991
Email: Send Message

Store Hours:
Mon - Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun - Sun: 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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Tips On How To Deter The Different Blackbirds

NoStarling_4c (RGB, 72 DPI, 300x286)no grackles


How Do I Stop Starlings, Grackles, and Blackbirds*?

These species can inundate many a backyard feeder. 

Starlings are a non-native species and are not related to our native blackbirds. They are irridescent black with speckles. Their beaks are dark in winter (shown above) and yellow in summer.

Grackles, who are black with a purple-blue sheen to their heads, are our most common blackbirds. Red-winged blackbirds and cowbirds are other native blackbirds who may visit your feeders. 

 *While not technically correct, all three species are commonly lumped under the term "Blackbird," and for simplicity we will use the term throughout the article unless specific clarification needs to be made.

Starlings' preferred diet consists primarily of insects and berries, but if these are hard to find, they turn to our feeders instead. Their beaks are not designed for cracking hard seed shells, so they go first for the softer suet cakes, peanuts, and other foods without shells. If those aren't available, they will even force themselves to eat hard shelled seeds. Fortunately, we do have a few tricks to eliminate Starlings from some feeders, and to slow them down at others, so your other birds can get their share of food, too.

 The other blackbirds are more traditional seed eaters. They are less likely to bother suet, unless it is of poor quality (ie, filled with seeds or grains), but will devour most common seeds readily.

Exclude Them!

The most effective way to avoid losing all your birdfood to blackbirds is to physically prevent them from gaining access to the food.  These birds are simply too large to fit through the openings of the cages that surround the feeders below, yet smaller birds fly right through the openings in much the same way as they would fly through a fence or navigate in the dense branches of a bush.

Even the larger woodpeckers can still feed thanks to their long necks, prying beaks, and agile tongues, which can stretch to obtain food. 

These cages will also stop squirrels and quickly pay for themselves in terms of food saved.

suet feeder starling proof

suet feeder

Suet Feeders with Guards

These feeders each hold two suet cakes.
Two Downy Woodpeckers demonstrate.

on guard cage for peanut feeder

On-Guard Peanut Feeder Protector

Fits over mesh peanut feeders to protect peanut pieces or Bark Butter Bits.

on guard cage for cylinder feeder

On-Guard for Cylinder Feeders or Dinner Bell Feeders

A Carolina Wren dines on a protected Cranberry Fare Cylinder.

OnGuardCage (RGB, 72 DPI, 225x300)

On-Guard for Tube Feeders

Because No-Mess Blend and other blends containing shell-free seeds are easier for starlings to eat, guards to protect tube feeders in which they are served are beneficial. This guards is actually the same guard as for the peanut feeder, and fits over most our of WBU tube feeders, making it versatile should your needs change.

Slow Them Down

There are a few feeders worth mentioning that starlings can use, but which are challenging enough that the starlings may not completely dominate.

upside down suet

Upside Down Suet Feeder

There are quite a few books and magazines that claim Starlings can't hang up-side down like the woodpeckers. Well, the starlings didn't read those articles and we'll be the first to say the Up-side Down Suet feeder is not foolproof. However, the challenge of accessing food from only the bottom of this feeder may be enough to keep starlings from eating an entire suet cake in one sitting. So, if you don't care for the look of the cage style protectors above, this feeder may be helpful.

clingers onlyClingers Only

Because there are no perches or ledges on which to sit, the blackbirds do not use this feeder as easily as smaller birds, such as goldfinches, chickadees, titmice and nuthatches. Again, it will not stop all blackbirds, but can be used in an overall reduction program.

Squirrel Proof ClassicSquirrel-Proof with Adjustable Baffle

This feeder can be used several ways. As pictured, it's a great, all-purpose, squirrel-proof feeder. If you lower the weather/squirrel guard, the tighter spacing makes the feeder challenging for larger birds to use. For additional challenge, the perches can be reduced, making it extremely challenging for starlings to use.

BIRD TIP : Never offer bread, pizza crusts, or other similar foods. Few songbirds will eat them, yet these soft foods are extremely palatable to starlings and will act like a magnet, drawing every starling in the neighborhood.

Let Us Help


We hope you've found these tips and tricks useful for helping discourage blackbirds in your backyard. For more information, stop by Wild Birds Unlimited and we'll be happy to discuss the particulars of your backyard and help you create a plan to encourage the birds you want, while discouraging the ones you don't.