Is it okay to feed a vast flock of blackbirds?
February 9, 2014 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Many hundreds of redwing blackbirds visit my feeders in the winter. Is it wrong to keep feeding them?

I don't mind the mess. They are pretty, they make lovely noises, and they keep my indoor cats distracted. The flock disappears periodically every hour so they're not permanently keeping other birds from the feeders. The nearest neighbors are a half-mile away. The flock is gone by the end of March. (I live near Jacksonville, FL by the way.)

So all that works, but I understand that red wings are agricultural pests and some consider them "trash" birds. I googled this question, but the results have to do with how to get rid of them. I feel guilty and ridiculous for feeding them and ashamed of the cost, but I'd have to stop altogether to make them go away. Am I doing the equivalent of feeding rats?
posted by Banish Misfortune to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
If they're not causing significant problems and it's making you/the birds happy? Who cares. Feed away.
posted by fireandthud at 8:53 AM on February 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just make sure they aren't attacking the neighbors. Red Wing Blackbirds actually will attack humans. Been attacked myself--one time on a bike path all of these people coming the other direction said something about a bird. Next thing I knew I thought some kid threw a rock at the back of my head. I continued riding but turned my head. There was a red wing blackbird inches from my face chasing me. I sped up on my road bike and he labored to keep up and fell back. On the way back we shot through that section of the trail at nearly full speed. Turns out they are highly territorial during mating season, so be aware. If it doesn't bother anyone, I say its ok. I would also check with local groups or animal control.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:05 AM on February 9, 2014

I feed birds in the winter as well for exactly the same reasons as you do. It's like TV for cats. During the day there are always some birds around, the most would be around 30, not hundreds though.
Most of them are house sparrows, and some people consider them a pest. But I also see tits, robins and other more rare birds. So if I stopped feeding, the rarer wild birds would lose a source of food in winter.
What other bids visit your feeders? Would it be possible to change the feeders in size/location so they would attract smaller species and keep the blackbirds out?
posted by travelwithcats at 9:37 AM on February 9, 2014

If you lived in the Arctic, I could understand, but in Florida,there should be plenty of natural food sources.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:01 AM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I see nothing wrong with doing this, as you've described it, unless the cost is getting to be too much for you to manage. That said, I love seeing the birds at the feeders and so do our family's cats, so maybe I'm biased?

My only concern about feeding has come down to worrying what might happen if I stopped - for financial reasons, moving, or illness. To that end, I would suggest filling your feeders one day per week (or two, or whatever), and letting it run down in between those fillings, in order to make sure the birds continue to seek, and use, natural sources of food. (I have no idea if that's a real concern.)
posted by VioletU at 10:15 AM on February 9, 2014

If you keep feeding them into the spring, when nesting season starts, you may find that you end up with nesting blackbirds all around your home. If this is the case, and you stop feeding them after they've started their nests, you may very well cause all their eggs to be abandoned or their chicks to starve because they've lost their primary food source. In such a case you may want to keep feeding them through the summer until the new chicks have fledged.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 5:05 PM on February 9, 2014

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