Dealing with Bully Birds at Bird Feeders

Dealing with Bully Birds at Bird Feeders explores the common problem of certain bird species dominating feeders and intimidating other birds. From European Starlings to Crows, these bully birds can disrupt the peaceful feeding environment of other feathered friends. The article provides helpful tips for bird enthusiasts on how to handle these bullies, including using caged feeders, cleaning up spillage, and offering foods that they dislike. It also suggests the option of feeding birds only during the winter months to avoid the attention of bully birds, who typically migrate south during colder seasons. For those struggling specifically with crows and house sparrows, the article offers additional strategies for dealing with their unique behaviors.

Overview of Bully Birds at Bird Feeders

Bully birds such as European Starlings, Grackles, Crows, Redwing Blackbirds, Pigeons, and House Sparrows can be problematic at bird feeders. These birds exhibit aggressive behavior towards other birds, consume large amounts of food, intimidate and drive away smaller birds, and create a mess by wasting birdseed. Understanding their behavior and implementing effective strategies can help bird enthusiasts create a more welcoming and harmonious environment for all feathered visitors.

Types of Bully Birds

European Starlings

European Starlings are known for their aggressive behavior and tendency to form large flocks. They often monopolize bird feeders, scaring away smaller songbirds. Recognizable by their black plumage and speckled appearance, these birds can be a challenge to deter.


Grackles are large, icterid birds with iridescent black feathers. They are notorious for their raucous calls and bold behavior at bird feeders. Grackles will often swoop in and aggressively compete for food, displacing smaller birds.


Crows, known for their black feathers and intelligent nature, can also pose a challenge at bird feeders. They are opportunistic feeders and will readily take advantage of an easily accessible food source, at times scaring away other birds in the process.

Redwing Blackbirds

Redwing Blackbirds, characterized by the distinctive red patches on their wings, are territorial birds that can exhibit aggressive behavior towards other species. It is not uncommon for these birds to intimidate smaller birds and monopolize bird feeders.


Pigeons, often seen in urban environments, can become a nuisance at bird feeders. Their large size and voracious appetite can disrupt the feeding patterns of other bird species, causing them to be driven away.

House Sparrows

House Sparrows, while small in size, can be particularly aggressive towards other birds at feeders. Their competitive nature and ability to quickly reproduce can lead to dominance and exclusion of other species.

Problems Caused by Bully Birds

Aggressive behavior towards other birds

Bully birds, by nature, exhibit aggressive behavior towards other birds. They may chase, intimidate, or physically attack smaller and more vulnerable species at bird feeders. This aggression can disrupt the feeding patterns and prevent other birds from accessing the necessary resources.

Consuming large amounts of food

Bully birds often consume significant quantities of food, leaving little for other bird species. Their large size and competitive nature allow them to monopolize feeders and create a scarcity of resources for smaller birds.

Intimidating and driving away smaller birds

Smaller and more timid bird species may be effectively driven away from feeders by bully birds. The constant presence and aggressive behavior of these larger birds can create an inhospitable environment, discouraging desirable bird species from visiting the feeder.

Creating a mess and wasting birdseed

Bully birds, with their frenzied feeding behavior, often create a mess around bird feeders. They scatter seeds, throw away unwanted portions, and trample on the ground, leading to wastage and potential hygiene concerns.

Understanding Bully Birds’ Behavior

Feeding patterns and preferences

Bully birds typically prefer certain types of food, such as seeds and grains. Recognizing their feeding patterns and preferences can help bird enthusiasts develop effective strategies to deter them.

Hierarchy and dominance

Bully birds often establish a pecking order or hierarchy within their flock. Dominant individuals tend to commandeer resources, including bird feeders, while subordinates may have to wait their turn or scavenge for leftovers.

Reactive aggression

Bully birds may exhibit reactive aggression, responding aggressively when they feel threatened or challenged. Understanding the triggers for aggression can guide bird enthusiasts in implementing measures to minimize confrontations.

Migratory behavior of bully birds

Some bully birds, such as European Starlings and Redwing Blackbirds, exhibit migratory behavior. They may be more prevalent at feeders during specific seasons, such as when they are on their way to breeding or wintering grounds. Being aware of these patterns can help bird enthusiasts anticipate and manage the presence of bully birds.

Effective Strategies for Dealing with Bully Birds

Using caged feeders

Caged feeders provide smaller bird species with access to food while preventing larger bully birds from monopolizing the feeder. The wire mesh surrounding the feeding area allows small birds to enter but keeps larger birds out.

Employing dome feeders

Dome feeders can be effective in deterring bully birds. By placing a large, transparent dome above the feeder, smaller birds can access the feeding ports while larger birds are unable to reach the food.

Utilizing weight-activated feeders

Weight-activated feeders can be a useful tool to deter bully birds. These feeders are designed to close off access to the food source when a heavier bird, such as a pigeon or grackle, lands on them. This mechanism ensures that smaller birds can feed undisturbed.

Choosing upside-down or caged suet feeders

Bully birds are less likely to be attracted to suet feeders that are hung upside down or encased in a cage. This design prevents larger birds from reaching the suet while allowing easier access for smaller, more agile species.

Opting for squirrel-resistant feeders

Some bully birds, such as crows, may share similar feeding habits with squirrels. Opting for squirrel-resistant feeders that are designed to outsmart these clever mammals can also help deter bully birds.

Reducing Attraction for Bully Birds

Cleaning up spillage under feeders

Regularly cleaning up spillage under bird feeders can help reduce the attraction for bully birds. Removing discarded seeds and hulls prevents them from accumulating and sending out signals to local bird populations.

Using no-mess birdseed

Using no-mess birdseed, which is often hulled or pre-shelled, can minimize waste and mess around bird feeders. This cleaner feeding option reduces the accessibility of food for bully birds and their disruptive behavior.

Avoiding open trays or platforms

Open trays or platforms can make it easier for large bully birds to access the food and monopolize the feeder. Opting for feeders with smaller feeding ports or specialized perches can help limit access to smaller bird species.

Limiting accessible perches

Bully birds, such as European Starlings and House Sparrows, often seek out perches near feeders to observe and intimidate other birds. By strategically placing feeders away from tall structures or removing potential perching spots, bird enthusiasts can make it more challenging for bully birds to dominate the area.

Foods that Deter Bully Birds


Bully birds, particularly squirrels and larger species such as Grackles, dislike safflower seeds. Incorporating safflower seeds into bird feeders can help deter these unwelcome visitors while still attracting other desirable bird species.

Plain suet

Plain suet, without any high-calorie additives or flavors, is less attractive to bully birds. House Sparrows, for example, are less likely to be enticed by plain suet, reducing their presence at feeders.


Bully birds, such as pigeons and crows, are not typically attracted to nectar feeders. Offering nectar specifically designed for hummingbirds can help deter these larger birds.

Nyjer seed

Nyjer seed, also known as thistle seed, is favored by many smaller finches but is less appealing to bully birds. Incorporating Nyjer seed into bird feeders can attract desirable species while discouraging bully birds.

Feeding Strategies to Avoid Bully Birds

Feeding birds during winter only

Bully birds tend to be more abundant during the warmer months and may migrate to different locations during winter. By feeding birds only during the winter season, bird enthusiasts can minimize the likelihood of encountering bully birds at their feeders.

Offering varied foods

Providing a diverse range of bird foods can help attract a wider variety of bird species while discouraging bully birds. Experimenting with different seed mixes, suet flavors, and specific foods for certain bird species can help create a more inclusive feeding environment.

Using selective bird feeders

Selective bird feeders, such as tube feeders with small perches, can limit access to bully birds while accommodating smaller species. These feeders ensure that only birds with a certain size or feeding behavior can access the food, reducing the chances of bully bird dominance.

Dealing with Crows at Bird Feeders

Understanding crow behavior

Crows are highly intelligent and adaptable birds. Understanding their behavior, such as their preference for certain food sources and their tendency to scavenge, can help bird enthusiasts develop effective strategies to deter them from bird feeders.

Scaring crows away

Implementing scare tactics, such as hanging reflective objects or using noise-making devices, can help deter crows from bird feeders. These tactics disrupt the birds’ comfort and make them less likely to frequent the area.

Avoiding attractants

Crows are attracted to easily accessible food sources. Avoiding leaving out food scraps or other potential attractants near bird feeders can help reduce the presence of crows and minimize their disruptive behavior.

Dealing with House Sparrows at Bird Feeders

Understanding House Sparrow behavior

House Sparrows are highly adaptable and competitive birds. Understanding their behavior, including their preference for certain types of food and nesting habits, can help bird enthusiasts devise strategies to discourage them.

Attracting other species

Promoting the presence of other bird species that are less likely to be intimidated by House Sparrows can help deter their dominance at bird feeders. Offering specialized feeders or food sources that cater to specific bird species can create a more diverse and harmonious feeding environment.

Creating sparrow-proof feeders

Utilizing specialized sparrow-proof feeders can help prevent House Sparrows from accessing the food. These feeders are designed to limit access to larger birds while accommodating smaller species, allowing for a more balanced feeding experience.

By understanding the behavior of bully birds, implementing effective strategies, and providing a welcoming environment for a diverse range of bird species, bird enthusiasts can create a peaceful and enjoyable bird-watching experience at their feeders. With a little planning and attention to detail, everyone can enjoy the beauty and wonder of our feathery friends.

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