Not all backyard birds are equally welcomed at every bird feeder, house or bath. Certain species have reputations for voracious appetites that will deprive other, more timid birds from needed meals, or they may be bullies that will chase away other birds. Still other species are invasive birds that can overtake the nesting areas and feeding grounds of native birds. Savvy birders, however, will quickly recognize these less desirable birds and can take safe, easy measures to discourage their visits if they would prefer these feathered fiends to stay away.
Note: Even if these birds are not necessarily welcome at your feeders, most of these species are still protected under the Migratory Bird Act and similar legislation. If you want to discourage certain birds from your backyard, always do so safely and responsibly!
Despite the fact that the house sparrow is declining in its native Eurasian range, this bird is invasive in many areas around the world. It can be aggressive and will kill other nesting birds in order to usurp their nesting cavities, which can severely endanger native birds. Using the proper bird house entrance hole sizes is a good way to help discourage house sparrows, as is eliminating open feeding areas.
These noisy birds often travel in large flocks that an quickly empty a feeding area, leaving nothing for more desireable birds to enjoy. In North America, European starlings are considered invasive, but they can easily be discouraged from backyard feeders by using smaller perches or caged feeder designs such as Squirrel-Proof Selective Feeder from Duncraft that will keep them from accessing the feeding ports.
Common grackles are gregarious birds with voracious appetites for grain, including birdseed. In rural areas, they often damage crops, and because they can gather in tremendous flocks they can be considered quite the nuisance. Removing ground feeding areas and offering foods other than birdseed are easy ways to discourage common grackles from your backyard.
While the glossy plumage of the brown-headed cowbird can be attractive, their status as a brood parasite is less than attractive to many backyard birders. These birds lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, and the foster parents often neglect their own hatchlings to care for their unwittingly adopted chick. Avoid feeding birds cracked corn or low quality birdseed to help discourage brown-headed cowbirds.
Homes near waterways or that have generous water features may become hosts to Canada geese, but these large waterfowl can be messy and aggressive, particularly during the summer breeding season or when the birds are molting. Many urban and suburban areas have plans to control populations of Canada geese, including regular culling, and if these birds are a problem in your backyard it is best to contact the proper wildlife control officials.
Mallards become a problem in backyards with ponds when they begin to hybridize with unwanted Easter ducklings and their populations grow out of control. Making a backyard pond less duck-friendly by adding taller plants around its edge can help discourage these birds, as can avoiding ground feeding areas where ducks can more easily forage.
Rock pigeons are another bird species that is invasive in much of the world, and these doves can be aggressive and demanding in their large flocks. Choose feeders with smaller perches or avoid offering mixed birdseed to discourage rock pigeons from visiting, and use pigeon deterrent methods such as spikes to eliminate perches on gutters or fences so these birds won’t have a place to feel comfortable.
Many dedicated backyard birders prefer not to play host to birds of prey that will feed on their favorite finches, sparrows and other songbirds. While Cooper’s hawks are protected birds, it is possible to discourage them from the backyard by providing ways to protect backyard birds from hawks. Without a reliable food source, the raptors will move on to easier hunting grounds.
A smaller cousin of the Cooper’s hawk, the sharp-shinned hawk is another backyard raptor that can be discouraged if it doesn’t have other birds to prey upon. Build a brush pile to provide safe shelter for smaller backyard birds and this accipiter will eventually leave to find a better, more productive place to hunt for its next meal.
The wild turkey is a popular bird in November, but rarely is it very popular at backyard feeders because of its aggression and its gregarious behavior that causes it to travel in large, hungry flocks. These can be powerful birds and it is best to avoid having them as regular guests, and removing ground feeders or large, low tray feeders will help encourage these polygamous birds to seek a better territory to explore.
Vultures can be interesting birds to see, but they’re not always welcome in the backyard because they can be messy and intimidating. Black vultures also have a reputation for inquisitive damage and will pick rubber pieces off vehicles or cause other damage to property, and it is best to discourage these carrion-eating birds from backyard roosts by using sound deterrents or making perches less vulture-friendly.
Many backyard birders enjoy the company of woodpeckers, but when those woodpeckers begin damaging wood siding or drumming loudly on different surfaces, they are suddenly less welcome. Covering attractive surfaces is one way to discourage woodpecker damage, and if necessary, avoiding suet feeders or nuts that woodpeckers love can make these birds less likely to stay nearby.