Pigeons are big birds, and they eat A LOT! Giving other birds a chance to feed when you have pigeons around can be a challenge. There are lots of pigeon-proof hanging feeders for birds like tits and finches. But what about the ground feeding birds like blackbirds and robins? How to keep the pigeons off their food? It can be easier than you think.
How To Feed Blackbirds But Not Pigeons.
To understand how to pull off the trick of feeding Blackbirds but not pigeons, we need first to understand what, and how, both birds eat.
What do Pigeons Eat?
Pigeons are one of the granivorous birds; they primarily like to eat seeds and grains but will also eat berries and other plant matter.
They are big birds and need to eat a lot. They also have a crop. This is a pouch in the throat, a bit like a doggy bag. It means that when their stomachs are full, they don’t need to stop eating. They can carry on eating the food available, fill up their crop, then digest the extra food later.
The sheer size of the bird and the crop are why it can seem like pigeons don’t leave your bird food alone until they have finished the lot.
Pigeons are ground-feeding birds, so they will prefer to eat from your bird table and the ground. They may have a go at hanging feeders. But the strategy is generally to tip the feeder so that the food falls to the floor where they will eat it.
What Do Blackbirds Eat?
Blackbirds are omnivores. They vary their diet through the seasons. So in the spring and summer, it’s all about worms, insects and snails for the blackbird. Then come autumn and winter, when these creatures get scarce, the blackbird moves on to fruits, seeds and berries.
Like pigeons, they are ground feeders and not built to eat clinging to tree trunks or hanging bird feeders.
And also like pigeons, they are quite big birds. They have a wingspan of over a foot and can weigh up to 4 ounces. (Compare this to the blue tit who weighs just half an ounce.)
Blackbirds are soft billed birds. This means their beaks aren’t designed to tackle some of the grains and tough-husked seeds that pigeons love.
You can already see some interesting similarities and differences between what and how pigeons and blackbirds eat. If we work with these, we can find ways to feed one rather than the other.
Top 10 Tips for Feeding Blackbirds Not Pigeons
Although pigeons are vegetarian, its grain they favour, along with the occasional berry. They don’t much care for most fruits, whereas blackbirds love fruit.
We feed our blackbirds a few raisins, soaked in warm water, twice a day. The pigeons ignore these. We never throw apple or pear cores in the bin, these always go straight on the lawn, and the blackbirds love these, but again the pigeons aren’t that interested.
Bits of cut-up fruit on the ground or on your bird table will also work well.
Pigeons are vegetarians, so they don’t really care for mealworms. For Blackbirds, on the other hand, mealworms are the nearest thing to an actual earthworm you can offer them. Blackbirds love a mealworm, and they are just the kind of high protein food that is needed.
Now we’re not saying that pigeons won’t eat your fat balls. But they are certainly not a favourite food. Given the choice between suet products and few handfuls of grain, or really cheap bird food, the pigeons will choose the grains/bird food.
The Blackbirds, on the other hand, will love the suet products, which are especially beneficial for them during the cold winter months. As well as standard suet balls and blocks, you can buy suet treats; small, soft pellets of suet which contain mealworms, dried fruit and sometimes kibbled peanuts. These are perfect for Blackbirds, and the addition of mealworms seems to be a further turn-off for the pigeons.
4.Get a soft bill bird feed mix.
Many of the hard seeds and grains in a standard bird mix aren’t suitable for soft billed birds like Blackbirds and Robins. You can buy special soft bill feed mixes. These concentrate on softer grains, like oats, sunflower hearts, dried fruit, mealworms and suet pellets. Although the pigeons might have a pick through for some of the grains, they will leave most of this food untouched. And the Blackbirds, Robbins and other finches will gobble the lot up.
5.Try an Enclosed Bird Table.
Blackbirds and pigeons are both ground feeders. This means they prefer to feed on a flat surface, and as well as enjoying eating off the floor, they will make a beeline for your bird table whilst largely ignoring hanging feeders. Standard bird tables with open sides allow free access to all.
But if you are keen to let the blackbirds in and keep the pigeons out, try a table with restricted access to the feeding platform like our Fordwich model. This is specifically designed to allow small birds in whilst keeping the bigger garden birds out.
6.Get a Ground Feeder Guardian.
Ground Feeder Guardians look like upturned hanging baskets and sit over a ground feeder, or even have their own feeding tray in the middle. They can be a good solution. But check the sizes carefully.
Remember, Blackbirds are quite big too. So if the gaps between the bars are too tight, you will keep both pigeons and blackbirds off the food. Also, if the whole thing is too small, pigeons may not be able to get their bodies in, but they will be able to get their heads and necks in to reach the food in the middle.
7.Pigeon Proof Fence.
Some people try surrounding their bird tables with a “fence” of garden canes, spaced at intervals wide enough to allow small birds in but keep pigeons out. Again, you would need to play around to get the right spacing to let the blackbirds in and keep the pigeons out. But some bird lovers do report success with this method, so it could be worth trying.
This solution is a kind of DIY Guardian. Surround your ground feeder with a circle of chicken wire. Blackbirds will happily hop through the holes to get the food, whilst pigeons will not be able to. Again, you would need to do a bit of experimenting to get the wire circle the right size so that pigeons couldn’t reach the food through the wire or simply land in the middle of the circle.
Blackbirds love to forage under hedges and in borders for their food. Pigeons prefer to eat out in the open and aren’t great hedgehog foragers. So throwing food for the blackbirds into your borders and under your hedges can be a good way of saving it from greedy pigeon beaks.
10.If you Can’t Beat Them, Feed Them.
Pigeons are hungry too, you know! They can’t help being big and annoying and needing lots to eat. It’s just how nature made them. If all your strategies to foil them fail, why not just feed them too? Pigeons will be happy with the cheapest possible feed mix. Throw some of this on the ground, away from where you feed the smaller birds, and everyone’s happy!
Feeding Pigeons and Blackbirds
Pigeons and Blackbirds are both ground feeders, and pigeons get through a lot of food – fast. So it’s easy to feel like the Blackbirds are missing out.
In reality, though, there are lots of foods you can put out for the Blackbirds that won’t interest pigeons one bit. And there are defence mechanisms you can use around your feeders to keep the pigeons at bay whilst the smaller birds get a beak in.
So it can be quite easy to keep your Blackbirds well fed even if your garden – like mine – is pigeon central.
But once the Blackbirds are full, don’t neglect the poor old pigeons. They are part of nature too and will be happy to eat the cheapest bird food you can buy.
Thanks for reading! We hope you’ve found this post useful. If you have a question or a suggestion, we would love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below.