Grackles, Starlings & Squirrels - What I can I Do?

Your awake, you've poured your coffee (the aroma of Creemore's Fair Trade, shade grown, organic bird friendly coffee is as always tantalizing your tastebuds); your coffee in one hand daily paper in the other, you head to your favourite bird watching location. You are ready to start your day. You have heard your Chickadee calling (chick-a-dee-dee-dee), your Cardinal will be there shortly, anticipation is building. But now dissapointment, your bird feeder is monopolized by the local gray squirrels.

What can I do?

Squirrel proof feeders are a great option. Check out the Eliminator and Fundamental feeder videos on our website. Placing your feeder on our exclusive APS (Advanced Pole System) with a squirrel baffle might be the answer. But what if your feeder was a gift from Mom or your son spent hours making you that special feeder and a pole system is not an option?


Safflower is a nutritious safe natural seed you can offer your birds. There is no need to treat your seed with hot powders (capsaicin is often used) or feed your birds seed that has been pre-treated with capsaicin. Why buy a product that has a safety warning on the label? David Botner (Project Feeder Watch Leader of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology) does not recommend the use of capsaicin treated seed because no long term studies have been conducted on the effect of capsaicin on wild birds, "Squirrels (and other mammals) may be deterred from consuming birdseed treated with capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers “hot.” Many commercial products are coated with capsaicin, but we are unaware of any research examining the affect of capsaicin on birds. The substance may irritate the eyes of birds (as it often irritates the eyes of people filling the feeders). Further, the effects of capsaicin on the digestive systems of birds have not been studied. While capsaicin may not negatively affect wild birds, we discourage adding any products to bird foods that have not been thoroughly tested.

Safflower presents a unique problem to Grackles and Starlings. Their beaks do not allow them to crack the shell very easily and gray squirrels just don't like the taste. The exception for squirrels is when food is extremely scarce, they will eat some saffower, although witnesses say the squirrels face looks a lot like a child being asked to finish their brussel sprouts.

Safflower is a natural food eaten by birds in the west. Through trial and error it was discovered that safflower is a seed that eastern birds (other than Grackles and Starlings) will accept given time. Safflower nutritionally is very close to black oil sunflower seed, the natural seed of eastern birds.

There are two methods of introducing safflower to your birds. Slowly mix safflower with your exisiting seed (a 50/50 split of safflower and black oil sunflower is called a Cardinal mix). Increase the amount of safflower over time. A typical schedule, one month of 50/50 (safflower/other seed), one month of 75/25 and then pure safflower. The other method, cold turkey. Offer pure safflower. It has been known to work.

No matter which method you choose, remember the old proverb, patience is a virtue.

We have many customers that have found this safe and natural seed to be a great success. Patience was needed but now Cardinals, House Finch, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Blue Jays, Sparrows, Mourning Doves and other popular backyard songbirds are now eating safflower.

If safflower sounds like a possible option for your backyard feeding fun now is great time to come into the store to review this option with one of our Backyard Bird Feeding Specialists.