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House sparrows

Modified feeders slow down the mob of house sparrows


It is that time of year again, time for my yearly update on feeding house sparrows. Believe me, I do not want to feed house sparrows but with an estimated 50-60 of these invasive sparrows wintering in my back yard, the only way I can feed other bird species is to also feed house sparrows.

Everything I do in feeding birds is meant to slow down house sparrows so other, more desirable species can eat. I do not get a wide variety of birds at my house, so I want more birds like house finches, goldfinches, white-crowned sparrows and juncos.

This year I even got so exasperated that I decided I had to prove I was smarter than those small, bird-brained house sparrows, but my plan did not work out. I built a trap. I was going to trap house sparrows and remove them so other birds could feed in peace.

The trap design worked fine; if any one wants to trap house sparrows I can show them the trap that will do it. The problem was it also trapped house finches and juncos even better. I could not figure out a way to separate out the good birds from the bad ones, so I gave up.

The only working strategy I have found has been the modified feeders shown here. In each case, the design does not stop house sparrows from using the feeder, but does slow them down so other birds have a chance to eat before house sparrows drain the feeder.

The green feeder, second from the left, is used specifically to feed house sparrows. It is normally placed in the open, away from trees so they must fly out to the feeder. I feel this feeder keeps them busy and takes some pressure off the other feeders.

They must cling to a vertical lip on the feeder and I closed off all but a small opening so only one bird can cling to the feeder at a time. The small opening also means they cannot flick seeds to the side, to fall on the ground. They can only pick up one seed and fly off with it and it takes them a couple of days to empty this feeder.

The first feeder on the left contains thistle, or nyjer, seed for goldfinches. It is designed so they must hang upside down since the feed ports are below the perches. A few house sparrow males can do this but they generally leave it alone.

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The third feeder from the left also contains thistle seed in a net sock. It is covered with a plastic sleeve so goldfinches must cling to the bottom of the sock to feed. Only a few male house sparrows will do this. The problem with both types of thistle seed feeders is house finches will not cling upside down, so it eliminates them also.

The right feeder is a typical shelf feeder with vertical strings placed so the bird must fly between them. House finches do not mind this at all, but most house sparrows stay away.

I would guess maybe 20 percent of my house sparrow flock use the feeder but most of them stay on the ground below the feeder, waiting for a dropped seed. Clips can be seen in the photo holding cardboard squares. They stop house sparrows from entering from the side to avoid the strings.

Cindy says I obsess over house sparrows but I DO NOT. I am just trying to show I am smarter than a house sparrow and I am having a tough time proving it, OK?


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