Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Irresistible! Attract House Sparrows to Your Feeder

House Sparrows are usually the easiest birds to attract to your bird feeder. 

House sparrows are year-round residents in towns and cities throughout the contiguous Unted States. So you likely have these birds nearby that you can attract.

How do you attract House Sparrows to your feeder? Follow these suggestions to attract House Sparrows to your yard.

Photo of male House Sparrow
Male House Sparrow. Greg Gillson.

Why attract House Sparrows to your bird feeder?

House Sparrows are often the first birds to find your new feeder. Feeding House Sparrows often attract other birds to your feeder. Thus, by attracting House Sparrows to your feeder, you may quickly get lots of other birds to your feeder, too.

House Sparrows are usually found in flocks. They have interesting behaviors and social interactions. 

For instance, in a study published in the journal Auk, female House Sparrows were often dominant at feeders in fall and winter. In spring and summer, males were usually dominant.

In spring, watch the males lower their head, flutter their wings, raise their tail, and spin in front of the female in their courtship display.

Photo of female House Sparrow
Female House Sparrow.

What foods will attract House Sparrows to your feeder?

House Sparrows prefer grains over seeds.

Thus, their favorite foods are cracked corn, wheat and milo. Blackbirds, doves, and quail also eat these grains. Most other North American feeder birds do not like these grains.

House Sparrows also like seed blocks (Amazon affiliate link), which are also a favorite of quails and doves. These can even sit on bare ground. Birds have to nibble these blocks to get the seeds loose. So they are less messy than other feeding methods.

All sparrows in North America, including House Sparrows like white proso millet (Amazon affiliate link). Thus, there isn't as much waste and mess with these seeds compared with red milo and other grains used as cheap bird seed.

Photo of House Sparrow

What kind of feeders do House Sparrows like?

House Sparrows prefer to eat from platform feeders. These feeders are just an open tray that mimic open bare ground. They are the favorite feeder type of ground-eating birds.

They feed in flocks, squabbling and bickering. Thus, they like a wide feeder area.

Here is a low, wide, fly-thru platform feeder with roof (Amazon affiliate link).

They also eat on the ground. So, a low feeder or just grain spread on bare ground, is their favorite way to eat.

Here is a brief overview video of House Sparrows at your feeder that I created for you. It's on my new YouTube channel where I discuss birds, bird watching and identification. Please chick it out if this topic interests you!

Where to place your bird feeder for House Sparrows

House Sparrows are not afraid to be around people. Thus, you can place their feeder just about anywhere and they will happily eat from it.

They do, however, like to feed on the ground. So a lower bird feeder makes them happy. Anything low to the ground will be favored.

They also like to rummage through dirt or gravel for seeds on the ground.

Photo of House Sparrow

How else can you attract House Sparrows to your yard?

House Sparrows really like water and bird baths. A concrete bird bath provides the rough surface they like for gripping with their feet. 

And don't fill it too deep. Most birds like to wade from shallow into deeper water for baths. They are uncomfortable with deeper water (over 1 inch). 

If your bird bath is too deep, add flat stones so they can walk down into the water.

House Sparrows readily use nest boxes. They like a perch and larger hole (1-1/2 inch diameter). Here's such a wooden bird house that they will like (Amazon affiliate link).

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Photo of House Sparrow at bird bath

Problems with House Sparrows: If you have attracted too many to your feeder

Many people don't like House Sparrows at their feeder. There are many reasons, but most come down to these birds often growing into large, noisy, aggressive and messy flocks.

If you would rather not have House Sparrows, or reduce their number at your bird feeder, there are several things you can do.

First, feed you birds black oil sunflower seeds from a tube feeder, with no tray

House Sparrows have weak feet and have difficulty keeping their balance with the small perches on tube feeders. And only one sparrow can eat at a time from each feeding port. It doesn't keep them away, but it does slow them down and allow other finches and chickadees to eat at the feeder.

House Sparrows take longer to eat black oil sunflower seeds. They prefer smaller grains. On the other hand, black oil sunflower seed is the favorite of most other finches, cardinals, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.

I really love the way my iBorn tube feeder (Amazon affiliate link) looks, with it's copper top.  A screwdriver takes off the lower perch and opens it up for cleaning. This feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds attracts all types of finches, chickadees, and nuthatches. The smaller perches and lack of tray mean that you'll have fewer House Sparrows, Starlings, Doves, and Jays at this feeder.

Secondly, you may try this trick to scare House Sparrows away from feeders. It seems House Sparrows are the only birds afraid of monofilament fishing line. 

Attach some strands about 2 inches apart and just hanging down from the roof line of a hopper feeder, fly-thru platform feeder, or suspend it around the edge of a plastic dome over a tube feeder.

My friends over at Badgerland Birding created this YouTube video discussing using fishing line to keep House Sparrows away from your feeder.

House Sparrow FAQ

Ask questions in the comments below about attracting and feeding House Sparrows and I'll add the answer here!


Why aren't birds coming to your feeder?

First in series: Irresistible! Attract Mourning Doves to your feeder

Next in series: Irresistible! Attract Northern Cardinals to your feeder

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