Too many birds, and too many bird problems.
June 12, 2012 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Name that bird! And also need some suggestions for keeping birds out of the pet food/water dishes.

I'm gonna kill two birds with one question here (ha!) and ask two questions.
1. Can someone identify these birds? These little terrors are always a problem during the spring/summer here in Eastern Tennessee. They are of a dusty black/brownish gray/brownish black color (there's some scientific color specs for ya) and are the most annoying birds ever. They're roughly the size of your standard bluejay or mockingbird. They hang around the yard, walking mostly, and do a lot of picking on the ground rather than eating from a feeder. Oddly, they seem to stay with the momma bird well into their adult years, and are messy as all get out. The babies will literally follow the mom around puffing up, fussing, and generally being annoying until she feeds them...they look to be fully grown though. (IANA bird expert, just an observation). I've looked at and have not had much luck, but that doesn't mean much LOL.
2. Any fresh/new/interesting ideas on how to keep birds out of pet food/water dishes? We don't have the option to bring said dishes in during the day and the above mentioned birds, as well as mockingbirds, cause lots of mess and end up wasting food as well. We've tried the fake owl near the dishes and have moved it several times, but the birds seem to catch on to that pretty quickly. Any other ideas? (I think the easiest thing for us will be building lattice work around the dog's area, but the birds will still have access to the will just require a little more walking/flying on their part.)
posted by PeppahCat to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
The picture isn't great but from your description and what I can see, they look like juvenile Starlings. They are iridescent black and spotted when grown, but the color you describe when young. They usually travel in groups and have kind of an annoying squawk sound.
posted by Sal and Richard at 9:44 AM on June 12, 2012

Yeah, they look like juvenile starlings, or possibly juve Brewer's blackbirds. Both are a pain in the ass.

For keeping birds away from outdoor pet food - well, good luck. You can try those silvery, fluttery streamers, but those won't likely work any longer than the fake owl did. Birds aren't super smart, but they're smart enough to (eventually) tell a real threat from a fake one.

Your best hope is that an accipiter (a kind of hawk whose preferred prey is other birds) decides to treat your yard as a fast food stop. This, of course, will also chase off birds you want to see, and once the accip moves on, the ones you don't want will come back.
posted by rtha at 9:54 AM on June 12, 2012

Best answer: Check your memail!
posted by workerant at 10:08 AM on June 12, 2012

Best answer: Dog waterer. Can take a little training to get your dog to use it, but I have seen them used in kennels.

Set something like this up during the day to let out a little bit of food and often, so at least your dogs might have a fighting chance to get some food. Also you could stop free feeding your dogs and just give them enough food in the morning that they eat it quickly, this doesn't work with all dogs I have one fussy eater that likes to browse all day.
posted by wwax at 10:10 AM on June 12, 2012

Response by poster: That waterer is about the coolest thing I've ever seen...MUST invest in one to see how ours take to it!

And sorry for the quality of the photos...they are on my cell and have a certain "Star" magazine quality to them. These birds do seem to travel in large groups, typically see a good dozen of them out there together, though they may not all be 'together' but rather all milling around in the same location. Will have to look into the starling/Brewer's variety of birds when I'm able to this evening and see if I can make a positive ID. =)
posted by PeppahCat at 10:23 AM on June 12, 2012

It's tough to tell, but those look like a bit like cowbirds to me.

Behavior sounds more like starlings, though, and agreed that they're a colossal pain in the ass. In Georgia, they're considered a pest: open season, no limit That ought to tell you something. Thanks, Shakespeare fans, for introducing them into Central Park and giving us millions and millions of them!
posted by jquinby at 10:38 AM on June 12, 2012

Your photos have a Star Magazine quality because they are starlings. You need an enclosed, netted, or fenced area with a hinged/swinging door that only your dog is strong enough to push open. Keep your dog food and water in there. Starlings are a pain in the ass. They devastate vineyards here--the only solutions are netting, propane cannons, broadcasting starling distress calls, flying fake hawk kites/balloons, and the old fashioned shotgun.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:39 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

They look and sound like grackles to me.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:30 PM on June 12, 2012

Not sure what exactly they are (and this coming from a birder) but they do seem like one of the common invasive pests listed above. If you are in a rural-ish area, perhaps consider borrowing your neighbor's 22?
posted by Larus at 10:50 PM on June 12, 2012

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