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Foods that house sparrows don't like? (1 Viewer)

Dr. K

Bad Weather Birder
United States
I have tried a lot of tricks to keep my house sparrows at bay. Eventually I gave up trying to keep them away entirely, instead I provide one feeder that they can access with many of their favorite seeds. Only two can feed at once, frustrating the group immensely but the fallen bits and potential for a turn at the table seems to largely keep their focus on that feeder. Meanwhile, I have a couple upside-down suet feeders and two hopper feeders with safflower for everyone else. I read that house sparrows don't care for safflower, and can't feed from upside-down suet feeders... well, they don't seem to be enthusiastic about either but "can't" or "won't" is not in their vocabulary, and while they are currently focused largely on their dedicated feeder I fear that the large flock will eventually resort to bullying again at my other feeders, even for less easy/tasty foods. I wonder if anyone here is aware of other seeds or foods that native (Michigan, USA) birds like but that house sparrow do not?

Thanks for any tips!
I know that they never went near my sunflower heart seeds. Expensive though.
Now here is one suggestion you probably won't like but I suggested to a friend of mine to take the feeders down for a few days and the sparrows moved on and after a day of putting them back up all her other birds came back ;)

Hi Dr. K and a warm welcome to you from those of us on staff here at BirdForum (y)
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Thank you for the welcome and the comments. In fact I have tried taking the feeders down for a couple weeks. That became depressing enough that I gave up the idea of trying to feed zero sparrows. And, then the sparrows came back a few days after the feeders went back up. I might try taking down their dedicated feeder, or let it run dry, but I fear they will then put more effort into the safflower and suet feeders and develop a taste for the former and skills to access the latter.
I tried safflower for a while. The House Sparrows quit the feeder for a while, but after a few months they came back. They might not come back in your case since you have other food nearby that they prefer.

I have heard that hanging fishing line around feeders with weights tied to the bottom to keep the line straight will scare House Sparrows (but not other birds).

"House sparrows don't like safflower" - at my house some of them have developed a taste for them, even when other seed is available.
"House sparrows struggle to feed at feeders with shortened, or removed perches" - they figured that our after a couple hours.
"House sparrows struggle to feed from upside-down suet feeders" - at my house some of them are quite skilled at it, actually.
"House sparrows will not eat less desirable food if another feeder with their favorites is available" - At my house they eat everything.


The only significant development at my house this week was the arrival of a very determined cooper's hawk. It bounded through the bushes, even tried to run down stragglers, hunting house sparrows for about an hour in the bushes around my house. She was, regrettably, unsuccessful, but I didn't see a house sparrow for a good 24 hours after that, and they've only just begun to trickle back a couple at a time. I hope our neighborhood hawk remembers to keep my house on rotation!
I was in the exact same boat this week, watching with dismay as 20+ house sparrows drained my feeders and drove off my beloved native birds. (I am also a Michigander by the way. Hello, neighbor!) I searched for a solution other than going to 100% safflower which I have tried before with mixed results. I finally found a mention of the “magic halo” — a set of four vertical wires hung vertically around the feeder.

I have domes on most of my feeders and ZERO access to a drill or other woodworking tools (and even less in the way of DIY skills) so I went with the “baffle and clips” model in the video. Yesterday I picked up binder clips at Target, 20 gauge steel wire and 5/8” steel nuts at Tractor Supply. I spent less than $10 on all of it. This morning I laid everything out on a table in my garage and glared at the flock of sparrows as they started devouring my feed again. I put everything together in just a few minutes using some wire snips and two small sets of pliers, then I clipped them to most of my feeders.

I finished up and hung everything out, then sat on the deck steps to enjoy my coffee and keep an eye on the feeders. I can’t vouch for this as a long-term solution yet. However, within about ten minutes I was sitting there with my mouth hanging open as one of our shyest birds - a downy woodpecker female - flew in and perched on the suet feeder that hangs on our deck rail. As she happily feasted away numerous house sparrows flew in to join her and veered off at the last second, landing on the roof and staring at her as she ate suet unbothered for once. I have since watched them balk at my main feeder pole and end up foraging on the ground below as cardinals, nuthatches, tufted titmice, chickadees, and our hairy and red belly woodpeckers come and go from the feeders completely unfazed by the wires.

One other note — the feeders on my pole system that do NOT have a “halo” seem to be afforded some protection from the wires hanging on the feeders next to them that do, so if your feeders are close together they will likely only need wires around the perimeter of the feeder station.

Give it a try. I think you’ll be very happy with the results, at least in the short term. If it doesn’t and up being permanent solution you’re only out $10.

Good luck, neighbor!
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