by Jamie Haas
It’s that time of year when the grackles are introducing themselves to our feeders. They really are pretty birds with their iridescent purple hues and white eye ring. But soon they will be driving people who feed birds a little crazy. With their ravenous appetites and large numbers they can be a bit irritating as they crowd out other birds. While we, at The Rock Pile, enjoy the bump these uninvited guests provide to our bird feed sales, we’d rather you truly enjoy your bird feeding experience.
You do have some options in dealing with grackles. One is to feed safflower. You usually have to slowly introduce your feeder birds to safflower. Sometimes, when you have been feeding black oil sunflower all winter and then make the sudden switch to safflower, the usual feeder crowd quits coming. It would be like going to your favorite eatery only to find they had completely changed the menu. You may not dislike the new food, you were just expecting something else. Switching cold turkey could take a few weeks to get regular bird activity back to “normal”. It works best if you can gradually increase the safflower in your mix so the birds get used to the change. Do not be disappointed if the grackles toss the seed out of the feeder looking for something they may like. In time, they will give up and move on to other feeding areas.
The advantage to feeding safflower is Grackles, Sparrows, Starlings and many other birds cannot work the hard outer shell, while Cardinals, Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches and Grosbeaks also enjoy it. Also, squirrels and other mammals do not like the bitter taste of safflower.