Deal with “Bully Birds”

European starling

Many backyard birders favor small birds such as nuthatches, finches, chickadees, cardinals and grosbeaks. They would like to deter “bully birds” such as blue jays and European starlings. Here are activity ideas to deter them from your feeders.

What You Need

  • bird feeders for smaller birds
  • domed cover
  • hammer and nails
  • hummingbird nectar feeders
  • nesting box
  • safflower or nyjer (thistle) seeds
  • suet feeder and suet
  • very small mirror (approximately 2 inches across)

What You Do

  1. Buy bird feeders for smaller birds.
    Bully birds are generally larger and heavier than other backyard birds. You can buy feeders that are surrounded by mesh with small entry spots that are only big enough for those smaller species. Also, some feeders that are “squirrel-proof” will shut the door when a heavier animal lands on them. Those are also effective for bully birds. Also, bully birds require a perch to hang on, but smaller birds can hold on to mesh. If the perches are above the food openings, this is also a good option because bully birds are not comfortable hanging upside to eat.

    European starling

  2. Buy a domed cover for your suet feeders.
    Starlings are afraid to go underneath a dome or anything else to feed. Bully birds love suet and can eat a whole cake in a day, so if you want to preserve your suet for other birds, cover it with a squirrel dome or buy a starling-proof suet feeder.
  3. Try safflower or nyjer (thistle) seeds.
    Generally, bully birds do not like safflower or nyjer (thistle) seeds. Those are the preferred foods of smaller birds.
  4. Spread out your hummingbird feeders.
    Male hummingbirds will defend feeders as territory. If you want to attract more than one male, put your feeders far away from each other so more birds will have their own territory.

    Ruby throated hummingbird

  5. Hang a mirror inside your nesting box.
    When a bully bird such as a starling peers into your nesting box and sees its own reflection, it is not likely to take over the nesting box. For some reason, it doesn’t affect birds such as owls, woodpeckers and wood ducks.
    This activity was adapted from “Ten Ways to Keep Bullies at Bay” (Needs Link) by George Harrison, National Wildlife , August/September 2005.