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smo4142

How to deter Brown-headed Cowbirds

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All four of my bird feeders, even the feed on the ground, have been completely taken over by brown-headed cowbirds. I have at least of hundred of them. I have always had a few in my yard, but never like this. I have read that using safflower seed in your feeders and feeder thats placed inside a wire basket can help deter them.

 Has anyone had any experience with this? I really want to get rid of them. My poor sparrow, finches, and cardinals don't have a chance at the feeders now.

 Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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I had this happen to me once and I just took all my feeders down for several days (I know it hard but you can do it! Your 'good' birds won't starve)  If you find that you just can't take all your feeders down only put out one or two and make sure they are caged or have no perches so only the smaller birds can get at it.

Do not put milo maize out at all...this is attractive to the cow birds and black birds.  Try feeding only safflower or whole sunflowers seeds and see if that helps

Oh, and don't spread any seed on the ground either...the sparrows and juncos will eat from the cages if they get hungry enough

 

Good luck!

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Thanks possum. I have tried just leaving them empty for a few days..but my other birds seem to be singing to me everytime I walk out to feed them..so I fill them back up..and within minutes it seems  here come the cowbirds. Thanks for the advice.. I will try taking them down and replacing my seed with milo.

 

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In case anyone is still checking this thread, I've just had a big success deterring brown-headed cowbirds from my backyard feeders. They would descend in droves and chow down - bags of seed consumed in a few days (not cheap), taking over the place, driving everyone else away. I was also starting to get larger and larger flocks of common grackles and a larger starling invasion looked ready to take root. Leaving feeders empty didn't work - the moment I refilled them, the cowbirds were back in force.

 

So I took some online hints and replaced my nice Audubon mix seed (with sunflower seeds) with safflower seed, black thistle and a small-ground finch mix that has no sunflower seeds in any form. Hey presto, no more cowbirds! Well, the occasional visitors, but they quickly get bored and go away. My feeder scene has gone back to a pleasant if modest society of house finches, tufted titmice, chickadees, my friendly Carolina wren, white-throated and song sparrows, juncos and mourning doves as before. Even the woodpeckers were affected by the cowbird blitz and are now back -- a beautiful pair of downies and a red-breasted on the suet cakes every morning and evening. I have way fewer cardinals -- used to have a whole clan out there -- but a few still show up to brighten up the place and it feels like peace out there.

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In case anyone is still checking this thread,

 

Anytime a thread is posted to, it gets bumped to the top, so yes, it is being seen.  :)  Welcome to Whatbird.

 

As I type I have the mass of Blackles in my yard, but this is just a migratory thing.  The numbers dwindle significantly in a couple of weeks.  They only visit a handful of times during the day as they make their rounds.  Also, since we began birding, we learned there can be some rarities in there, like the Rusty Blackbirds, so we take the time to scan through the flocks.

 

I am glad you found something to help your situation.  Because I would miss all the native sparrows terribly (They are probably my favourite family of birds.), I continue with the black-oil sunflower seeds and millet.  So I do get some undesireables at times.

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This is my first post and my first experience with cowbirds. A male and a female showed up yesterday and I swear, they stayed at my squirrel proof (spring loaded) feeder all day and emptied the darn thing (I had just filled it up).  I read about these moochers and dead beat parents and knew I didn't want them at my feeder any more. This morning I filled up the feeder again and so far this morning they have not shown themselves, but the finches, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, titmouses and even a few bluebirds have been having a feast!  The cowbirds did not bother any of the other types of feeders like my cardinal feeder filled with blackoil sunflower seeds.  Uh oh, as I type the male CB  is on it and I think it is a different one.  I was hoping they moved on.  Now he's pecking at the tube feeder for the finches, stupid bird can't find the small holes and has now left the scene.  Hope he hasn't gone to alert his friends or his spouse.  If they continue to come I will try some of the suggestions on this site.  Thanks for the useful information

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I have an increasing number of Brown-headed Cowbirds at my feeders this month. At the same time I'm noticing strange behavior from my Eastern Bluebirds. They have abandoned a nest with two eggs in the front maybe 25 yards from the feeders favorited by the cowbirds and started a nest in the back. The female also laid one egg in another nest box near by with no nest present. There are no cowbird eggs in the nests (both are in Bluebird nest boxes) but I wonder if the cowbirds are threatening to them in some way.

Thanks for the ideas--I'll change my seed and see what happens.

Tammy in Bastrop TX

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Welcome to the forum, Tammy.

It could be other reasons the BBs moved, but could be the cowbirds too. One suggestion I often see is not to place nesting boxes near bird feeders as it can attract predators. Cooper's hawks go to feeders to watch for birds to prey on, as one example.

Cowbird females on occasion go into nesting boxes since some can fit through the holes. So maybe this pair had previous experience with cowbirds and didn't feel safe there. Also, some birds seem to instinctively know Cowbirds are a problem and will try to chase them away.

I hope you have success with both the BB nesting and discouraging the cowbirds. :)

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I had trouble with crows and cowbirds, and I put out safflower seeds. I also have some thistle feeders for the finches. Most of the birds don't like safflower seeds, so I'm pretty much rid of the crows and cowbirds. I still get a lot of finches and hummingbirds so that's fine with me.

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My bird feeder is over run with male and female cowbirds, as well as red winged blackbirds and doves.  The cardinals, rose breasted grosbeaks, all kinds of woodpeckers and finch have pretty much been chased away.  I only put sunflower seeds in the feeder so I have decided to cover the bird feeder and not feed for a while.  If anyone has any better suggestions, please let me know.  Thank you!!

 

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Welcome to the site, bristolgrandma.

<br>

It is fine to take a break for awhile, but really, it is impossible to attract some birds without getting the others. You could use a cage feeder to exclude bigger birds, but they also exclude the Cardinals. Or you can do like Ron does and only feed safflower. That is something I won't do because I enjoy the native sparrows and other birds too much and will continue feeding the millet they enjoy.

<br>

I wish it was a simple thing to tell you to send all the Red-wingeds and Doves here. I like those birds. It is so few birds I dislike: cowbirds, grackles, starlings and house sparrows, but it is more for their bad bird habits than what they eat at my feeders.

<br>

I wish you success in getting the birds you want to see. I am content for the most part, but it's taken years of trial and error and learning what the birds like. Maybe you can try things like oranges in the spring, if Orioles are in your area, or putting out nesting material. There are many ways of attracting birds without the use of standard bird seed.

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Greetings.  I found his forum just today, and am happy to join in.   New to birding and loving it.  We too have been overwhelmed with cowbirds at the feeders.  This just happened 2 weeks ago.  We live in the country with lots of open fields and...... cows.  We have a bluebird couple making their nest in a box close by so my focus is on protecting them. I love everything about bluebirds, and can easily see why folks are so dedicated to protecting them.  The cowbirds chased off all my other birds, so we finally took the feeders down.  We are in wk 3 trying to wait them out.  I read about safflower seeds.  We have chickadees, titmouse, cardinals, blue jays, house wrens, and of course sparrows.  My feed is a mix of millet and sunflower seeds and has been great until the cowbirds found it.   Seems folks have had some luck switching to safflower or sunflower seeds?   Is that a good recommendation?    Thanks.

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2 hours ago, Texasboy said:

Seems folks have had some luck switching to safflower or sunflower seeds?   Is that a good recommendation?    Thanks.

Welcome to WB!  The way I've dealt with unwanted feeder visitors that are not invasive species (there's a whole different way to deal with them) is to set up a simple shepherd's hook waaaaaay on the opposite side of the yard with tray feeders while also making my main feeders difficult for them to access.  I have several house-shaped feeders for seed and there is less than 1/2" between the perching area and the seed bin so big birds like cowbirds, Grackles, Starlings, and Blue Jays can't land and eat.  I take down suet cages and my peanut tube because they can hold on to them.  I tried switching to safflower to deter squirrels but it also deterred the birds.

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8 hours ago, Texasboy said:

Greetings.  I found his forum just today, and am happy to join in.   New to birding and loving it.  We too have been overwhelmed with cowbirds at the feeders.  This just happened 2 weeks ago.  We live in the country with lots of open fields and...... cows.  We have a bluebird couple making their nest in a box close by so my focus is on protecting them. I love everything about bluebirds, and can easily see why folks are so dedicated to protecting them.  The cowbirds chased off all my other birds, so we finally took the feeders down.  We are in wk 3 trying to wait them out.  I read about safflower seeds.  We have chickadees, titmouse, cardinals, blue jays, house wrens, and of course sparrows.  My feed is a mix of millet and sunflower seeds and has been great until the cowbirds found it.   Seems folks have had some luck switching to safflower or sunflower seeds?   Is that a good recommendation?    Thanks.

Brown-headed Cowbirds love millet.  Removing that from your feed mix will probably help a lot.  Keep a close eye on your Bluebird Box.  Cowbirds are "parasitic" nesters, which mean they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.  Bluebirds are often a good target for them.  You should easily be able to identify a Cowbird egg from a Bluebird egg.  

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Thanks Chase. I read about the parasitic cowbirds.. We are watching the bluebirds very closely. Female is about finished with the nest. I will try feed without the millet.

AJ

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Update on the cow birds.  We switched to sunflower seeds as an experiment.  I didn't see much of a drop off on cowbirds so after a week or so I switched back.  I have seen the sheer number of cowbirds reduce. I expect the larger flock has moved on.   The one bird that is happy to compete with them at the feeder is the house finch.  SO I do get some nice red color.  LOL.

And the blue jays are not bothered. 

 

Thanks,

AJ

 

 

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I live outside of Atlanta in a heavily wooded area for 3.5 years. Until last month, had only songbirds, turkeys and doves. Crows and now cowbirds have shownup. Solved the crow problem by hanging a large fake crow upside down. They are nearby, but not coming after the bird & turkey food. Thanks for the revommendations on getting rid of the cowbirds. Have brought the feeder inside, will stop feeding the turkeys and hope this couple will move on. Hope they dont like meal worms!

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On 5/2/2016 at 9:34 AM, tfb520 said:

I have an increasing number of Brown-headed Cowbirds at my feeders this month. At the same time I'm noticing strange behavior from my Eastern Bluebirds. They have abandoned a nest with two eggs in the front maybe 25 yards from the feeders favorited by the cowbirds and started a nest in the back. The female also laid one egg in another nest box near by with no nest present. There are no cowbird eggs in the nests (both are in Bluebird nest boxes) but I wonder if the cowbirds are threatening to them in some way.

Thanks for the ideas--I'll change my seed and see what happens.

Tammy in Bastrop TX

Hey.  This is my first post here!

I have multiple feeders as well as a bluebird nest (which currently has 4 baby bluebirds in it!) - Oh, and I also have brown headed cowbirds at my feeders daily at the moment.

I open up and check on the bluebird nests regularly (they're in a wooden bluebird house), and no brown headed invaders.

As for the feeders, I still get a good variety of birds in a day, but the cowbird has recently become the prominent visitor.  The bluebird nests is about 30 - 40 feet from the feeders, and they don't seem to care.  

At the moment, I'm not planning on chasing cowbirds away.  I still get goldfinches, cardinals, house finches, etc.. (No tufted TM's though, but they stopped showing up before the cowbirds but after the goldfinches)  TTM's are my fave. :(

 

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After decades of feeding birds, this year cowbirds have taken over and they just won't move on.  They can wipe-out my suet in one day.  I plan to start shooting them with a pellet gun tomorrow.

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19 hours ago, GardeningJunkie said:

After decades of feeding birds, this year cowbirds have taken over and they just won't move on.  They can wipe-out my suet in one day.  I plan to start shooting them with a pellet gun tomorrow.

^^^

actually - shooting Cowbirds is illegal.  just an FYI...

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Has anyone tried placing some empty nests out in hopes of collecting CB eggs?

I was thinking about lining up a few near the feeders where CBs frequent to lure them to lay eggs there.

I have to admit I once exceeded the speed limit, and I once popped a CB with a pellet gun. I'm sorry about the speeding.

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