About us: We own a wild bird feeding supply nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

How to stop sparrows from taking over the feeders

I have fed birds for many years.  However, when I moved to Charlotte and began feeding once again, the sparrows took over the feeder, ate all the food.  Once in a great while, a gold finch would stop by, when it was empty.  Reluctantly, I stopped feeding.  Am wondering if you have any suggestions.  BTW - I have a squirrel proof feeder...

The closer you are to the city the more House Sparrows you are likely to have in your yard. The number one way to limit their numbers at the feeder is to not feed millet. Millet is their favorite seed and common in most seed blends. If you switch over to straight safflower seed you will decrease their activity at the feeders.

Safflower is a white seed savored by Cardinals, House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, and more. Blackbirds, starlings, squirrels, and sparrows avoid safflower. When you start feeding safflower there will be a dramatic drop in the number of birds at the feeder but then different birds will appear gradually.
Also suets attract a lot of bug eating birds like chickadees, woodpeckers, and nuthatches. It’s important to buy suet without seed in it that the sparrows can pick out. Our Wild Birds Unlimited Peanut Butter Suet contains just suet and peanuts, no seed, or we have just the straight beef suet for only woodpeckers.
Sometimes sparrows avoid Nyjer thistle feeders too. Goldfinches can eat upside down comfortably and the upside down finch feeder we sell is popular for people that are overrun with sparrows or house finches. The feeding port is below the perch and the goldfinches have to hang by their toes to reach the seed.

I’ve also had a lot of luck with the Seed Cylinders. Sparrows will work to get seed from the cylinders but they take a long time to whittle it down and that gives the other birds a chance to feed also.

Finally a couple good things about sparrows: even though they eat a lot and visit in huge flocks they also eat a lot of bugs while raising their young. Any yard with sparrows won’t have problems with mosquitoes. And they also make so much noise in the fall that the migrating birds often stop in yards with a lot of sparrow activity because they know it is a safe pit stop for birds on their way south. Keep your eyes open for migrating warbles, native sparrows, flycatchers, larks and swallows.

Related Articles:
- When House Sparrows were brought to America http://goo.gl/Py0RET
- What birds like Safflower seed? http://goo.gl/cbFrAO
- How to Attract Goldfinches http://goo.gl/xpjV1W
- Benefits of Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/5gtq7p
- Warblers make visits http://goo.gl/8M2ZC8


Anonymous said...

My husband noticed more than twenty cardinals at our feeder a week or so ago. We haven't ever seen so many at once. What could be the reason?

#FeedtheBirds said...

What you’re seeing foreshadows a change in seasons. By late summer, nesting is over and Northern Cardinals relax their defense of their territory boundaries. The birds sing less and flocks of cardinals begin to form.

The Cardinals don’t migrate but can expand their range while foraging for food. Young cardinals don’t have a set territory and can move around together freely in search of food. Older cardinals can join these young flocks for a time but drop out once it leaves their normal range.

These ever changing flocks can consist of about four to twenty birds depending on the area, time of year, weather, and available resources. Southern states will see larger flocks, of course, because the population is higher in the Southeast. Flock size also increases in December and January when temperatures decline or there is snow on the ground. More birds can find food easier and look out for predators.

About 40% of adult cardinals die each year. Most die during the winter in February and March when food supplies are low. Death may not be due to starvation but a weakened immune system or being forced to search for food in more open areas where birds of prey and other predators can kill them.

Cardinal populations with access to a feeding station may be in better condition and more likely to survive the winter than cardinals without access. The Northern Cardinal is often the first bird to visit a feeder in the morning and the last to stop by and grab a bite at night.