grackle in a field

Grackle

Updated: April 19, 2021

Blackbirds

  • Blackbirds are a common term for a variety of birds that are similar in appearance and behavior. In Maryland, common "blackbirds" include Grackles, Cowbirds, and Red-winged blackbirds. Starlings, although not considered a true blackbird will also be considered here. Their similar behavioral traits include an omnivorous diet, generally feeding in very large flocks, roosting at night in very large groups, and mass migrations.
  • All species can become problems when their massive flocks, in the thousands, swarm in a field of crops and destroy it, or invade both home and commercial orchards. In-home gardens, blackbirds will sometimes pull up seedlings as they emerge. Seedlings can be protected by using floating row cover. Their night roosting (rookery) in trees or on buildings by the hundreds or even thousands is another serious nuisance because of their droppings. This is usually more common during the fall and winter. There are possible health problems associated with the excessive buildup of droppings around a roost site.
  • If blackbirds are a problem, protect individual fruits by placing paper bags over. After the silk has turned brown on sweet corn bags can be secured over the ears to protect them also. Frightening devices such as scarecrows work for a very short period of time. Moving the frightening devices around frequently makes them more effective. To disperse a blackbird roost, the landowner should harass the birds every time they begin to congregate.
  • The key to successfully dispersing a roost is persistence and using many different types of harassment, such as loud noises, lights, water, et

Crows

  • Crows are large, 17 to 21 inches long, intelligent, blackbirds that are equally at home in the country or the city. They thrive best where there are trees for nesting and roosting. They are omnivorous, feeding on insects, dead fish, frogs, snakes, eggs, young birds, carrion, corn, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Crows mate in spring and construct large nests made of twigs, grass, and feathers in tall trees. The average clutch is 4 to 6 eggs. Usually, there is one brood per year. They live 4 to 6 years in the wild but can live to over 20 years in captivity.
  • Crows are more destructive to farm crops than they are to backyard gardens. In the home garden, crows may damage seedling corn plants by pulling the sprouts and eating the kernels.
  • seedlings can be protected with floating row cover. They can also damage ripening corn, melons, and various fruits which can be protected by covering them with individual bags. They may also raid bird feeders. Scare tactics are effective in dispersing crows from roosts and some crops. Frightening devices include loud sounds, bright lights, and scarecrows.
  • Protect ripening ears of corn by placing a paper sack over each ear after the silk has turned brown. 
  • Birds can get caught in bird netting and is not a viable option. 

Songbirds

  • There are many varieties of songbirds in Maryland. Most of them are migratory but a few remain year-round. Songbirds include mocking birds, robins, song sparrows, catbirds, orioles, cardinals, bluebirds,  and many others. Generally, songbirds are seldom a problem to plants or people. Occasionally, they are troublesome when they eat blueberries, strawberries, or other fruit. Catbirds and mocking birds are especially fond of berries. Robins may congregate by the hundreds at night to roost in trees.
  • In the past, to protect vegetable gardens and fruit plantings bird netting was recommended but it can also trap and injure the birds. Many gardeners grow their blueberries in large cages using chicken wire to protect the ripening berries.
  • If roosting robins are absolutely intolerable, you can use loud sounds to discourage them. Scare techniques, like sound, are only effective if started before the behavior becomes permanent.