I seem to have a growing collection of bird feeders. Some women can’t stop buying shoes. I can’t stop buying bird feeders. Just when I think I’ve got the yard set up perfectly, some bird dynamic changes, I look for a solution and there I am buying another bird feeder!
The problem I was having was a real pain . . . or a non-problem depending on your point of view. While all birds have their good and bad qualities (as seen by humans), I have mixed feelings about Common Grackles. While I think their feathers can be very beautiful in the sunlight and they are quite clever, their manners at the bird feeders don’t endear themselves to me. They tend to arrive in groups and if they like what they find in a feeder, they’ll hang around all day, dominating the feeders quite aggressively, not letting other birds have a chance.
I only have grackle issues periodically, mostly in the spring when they are moving in really large groups. But this year, a small group of them settled into our neighborhood, decided they liked my feeders and didn’t move on. With a crowd of grackles on the feeders, I was hardly seeing the Carolina Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatches and Tufted Titmouses that have been yard regulars for years. Even the finches and sparrows were getting scarce. What to do?
Common Grackles don’t seem to like safflower or nyjer seed, so they weren’t bothering those feeders. The ones they were camped out on were my two Squirrel Buster Plus feeders filled with sunflower hearts. These feeders are adjustable so that when squirrels or heavy birds land on a perch, that portion of the feeder drops down and the ports to the seed close.
So my first strategy was to try and adjust them to block out the grackles. The trouble was, that to set the weight low enough to block grackles, the spring mechanism gets very sluggish; half the time the ports wouldn’t open back up when the grackles left the perch. Then even the smaller birds would find the ports closed when they arrived.
Grackles are smart too. They quickly learned that more than one grackle on the feeder would close the ports but that if they landed carefully, one bird at a time could land, grab some seed and then move for the next bird. This procedure actually meant they were spending even MORE time at the feeders and blocking the other birds.
The springs on these feeders can eventually loosen up over time and need to be replaced (something the feeder manufacturer provides for at no cost.) But when I took one of the feeders to my local bird store to see if that was needed, they said the spring was working fine. So I think I was just asking the feeder to do more than it could do. (I’ve found these feeders to be 100% effective in keeping out squirrels as long as you follow the placement requirements, and that is why I got the feeders, so I’m not complaining.)
So that strategy didn’t work. My next strategy was to switch the seed in those feeders to safflower temporarily, thinking that maybe if they only found the food they didn’t like for several days or even a week, they would move on.
But they didn’t. While they were disgusted with the safflower, they still hung around to eat suet and nab the peanuts I put out for the Blue Jays. Still, with safflower in these feeders, the finches and sparrows now could come back and eat there and the White-Breasted Nuthatches reappeared as well. The Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmouses didn’t seem happy with the switch to safflower though and I didn’t want to lose them.
Which brings me to the new feeder. I decided to leave the Squirrel Buster Plus feeders with the safflower for now and bought a small cage type feeder to hold the sunflower hearts. This one is The Nuttery Globe Seed Feeder. It is like a short tube feeder with a globe shaped metal cage around it. Small birds can slip in and out through the cage bars but larger birds are shut out.
The House Finches discovered the new feeder within a couple of hours. It was interesting watching them figure it out. They seemed very nervous about it at first. They would slip in through the bars, often hesitating and backing out before they got inside.
If they got inside, they’d immediately go back out. It was like they were making sure it wasn’t a trap. When they got comfortable with that, the first birds would go inside, grab a seed and then slip out to sit on the outside of the globe to eat the seed and repeat the process for each seed. They still didn’t seem to trust it.
After a few days though, the House Finches got comfortable and now come inside and sit at the perches and eat. Interestingly, they don’t seem to constantly bicker with each other the way they do when sitting on the cardinal ring perch of the Squirrel Buster Plus feeder. I think it is because it is very easy for them to move around the Squirrel Buster’s ring perch and give each other grief, but less easy to bug each other on the four perches that are distributed around the tube inside the Globe Seed Feeder.
By the second day, a Carolina Chickadee had figured it out and soon after that, the Tufted Titmouses were using it. While the finches will settle in on the perches to eat, the chickadees and titmouses still follow their usual MO and grab a seed and go to a nearby branch to eat it.
Just today, a White-Breasted nuthatch came over to the feeder and after doing the “is it okay to go inside this thing” dance, happily snagged a seed and left to eat it.
Occasionally, one of the grackles or a Red-Winged Blackbird will come over the the cage feeder and try to get some seed, but this feeder is designed for the smaller birds to use, so they are out of luck. The cage is too small for Northern Cardinals, but they only rarely came to the Squirrel Buster feeders and love the safflower in the other feeders anyway. So the yard’s bird population has gone back to its more diverse mix of birds instead of being dominated by mostly grackles. A couple of grackles still come by to eat, but they don’t spend all day at the feeders blocking the other birds, so that is fine.
I’m really pleased with the Globe Seed Feeder so far. It’s been in use for a couple weeks and is serving the purpose for which I bought it: providing a feeder where smaller birds don’t have to compete with bigger birds. I’ve got it on a small extra third arm of one of my bird feeder poles. The two feeders on the other arms are platform feeders filled with safflower. Some of the small birds that like the sunflower seed in the Globe feeder will also eat safflower, so they will move around between the three feeders when there are a lot of them eating. When larger birds like Mourning Doves arrive to take over the platform feeders, the smaller birds tend to retreat to the Globe feeder and can happily continue to eat next to the larger birds.
One downside of this feeder is that photos of birds in a cage aren’t as pleasing as birds unobstructed by bars. But to be honest, I try to take most of my bird pictures when the birds are on the ground or on a branch or at a birdbath rather than at a feeder, so that isn’t a huge issue for me with this one.
This is a small feeder, which was a plus because I wanted to hang it on a shorter third arm of the pole and didn’t want something that would hang down below the squirrel baffle. The tube that holds the seed isn’t huge though, so I need to top it off each day, but it isn’t hard. I simply take it down off the arm of the pole, lift off the cover which rests on the top, add seed, put the cover back and re-hang it. It takes less than a minute. The construction is solid and I think I can reasonably expect it to last for quite a long time.
The Globe Seed Feeder’s tag says it is “squirrel proof.” I’ve got mine on a pole with a squirrel baffle, so it hasn’t been tested against a squirrel. I would suspect that a squirrel might find it challenging to simply reach in and grab seed out, but I think it might figure out how to rock or tip the feeder to spill seed if the feeder were hung in an unprotected place. I’ve found that hanging feeders on a baffled pole saves a lot of drama and a lot of seed!
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