Some nature-lovers welcome any bird to their feeders, no matter how large they may be in size or in appetite. Others, however, desire to keep large birds, such as crows, pigeons, starlings and grackles away from their feeders. This is quite understandable considering that the ferocious appetites of these pesky birds can cost you a bundle in birdfeed. Not only will they rob you blind, but they can also be rather unsightly, especially in large flocks, and are typically less sociable than their smaller feathered friends. Getting rid of annoying larger birds will ensure that more attractive and sociable birds continue to frequent your feeders.
Manufacturers understand this dilemma and have created feeders specifically designed to keep these larger, less desirable birds at bay. Special squirrel-proof feeders are available that will close if mounted by an animal above a certain weight. Feeders such as this will deter not only squirrels and other animals, but larger birds as well. Keep in mind, however, that such feeders will be considerably more expensive that your run-of-the-mill bird feeder.
While fancy store-bought feeders are one way to go, you don't necessarily need to spend a fortune on expensive feeders to avoid attracting larger birds. If you've already purchased or built your own feeders, there are simple modifications that can be made that will have a similar effect.
The first step in ridding yourself of larger bird species is removing any ground feeders that you might have. Small hanging feeders with small perches are perfect for many attractive species, such as sparrows, wrens and finches, but unsuitable for larger birds, such as starlings and blackbirds. Avoid using catch basins, which provide the opportunity for large birds to perch. Cylindrical feeders are available with wire mesh enclosures that keep large birds out, but still allow for smaller birds to feed. If you already have a cylindrical feeder, you can create your own mesh cage using chicken wire. Just hang the feeder within the wire cage, making sure that the mesh extends several inches from the feeder on all sides. Feeders with overhangs will also discourage larger birds.
The nature of your feeders is not the only determinate of the species that you will attract you should also consider what sorts of foods you are offering. If you offer suet at your feeders, try using a feeder that opens only on the bottom, forcing diners to hang upside down in order to reach the food, an activity that many large birds, especially blackbirds, despise. Blackbirds, as well as house sparrows and other pesky large birds, love cracked corn. Removing this favorite dish from your feeders will make your yard less attractive to them. Avoid offering feed mixes, which attract large birds such as English sparrows. Most smaller songbirds would prefer black oil sunflower seeds anyways, and will not miss the mixes.
While incorporating these ideas at your feeders should limit the amount of large birds that frequent your yard, there will typically always be those pesky few who stick around. Crows and ravens are especially bold and are good problem solvers and may be more difficult to deter. You can always try putting out a "scarecrow" figure cats seem to work especially well. And a real cat, of course, will work even better!
Finally, if all else fails, you can at least attempt to draw the larger birds to another less central part of your property. At least they will not be intimidating the smaller and more attractive birds and you can select a location where they will be less visible and audible. One little-known trick is to lure the larger birds away by offering dog food, which is less expensive than bird seed and still good for them, yet less attractive to smaller species. In this case, you will want to use a platform feeder that they can easily see and perch upon. Slowly, over the course of several days or weeks, move the platform feeder further away from the other feeders towards its new destination.
So far, I have only mentioned large birds such as crows and blackbirds, but there is another much larger species that you may receive a visit from at one point or another, depending on where you live. If you feed wild birds, you are bound to eventually attract a hawk, typically a Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Cooper's Hawk. For many of you, this up-close-and-personal encounter with such a majestic creature may be welcomed and celebrated. However, the situation can become problematic if the hawk decides to hang around for awhile. This intimidating bird is bound to scare away any smaller birds from your feeders and may even decide to make them his/her lunch. If the hawk outstays his/her welcome, a simple solution may be to remove your feeders. Within a few days, the hawk will get hungry and move on to new hunting grounds and you can return your feeders to their rightful places.