Birds (Brown birds/house sparrows/wrens)

Asked October 26, 2019, 11:09 AM EDT

I love to feed the birds in fall and winter. But as soon as the feeder goes up I am inundated with these brown birds. they drive all the other birds away to include the finches on the finch feeder. They appear to be aggressive with the other birds. I love to feed the birds, but I also like to have a variety at my feeders that is why I purchase different types of feed. I AM quickly beginning to develop an intense dislike for these brown birds! Is there a way to discourage them or drive them away from the feeders? There appears to be hundreds (ok that may be an exaggeration) but you get the idea. Thank you

Oakland County Michigan

1 Response

Most likely you are experiencing an issue with House Sparrows (more info on the species here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Sparrow/id)

House Sparrows are a non-native species (some consider invasive) that are common in urban, suburban, and some agricultural areas around the world. Since they are non-native, they are not covered under the migratory bird treaty. They can be very aggressive and some studies show they can displace native species in their nesting habitat, although it is possible to reduce this competition by moving nesting boxes further away from buildings and their preferred habitat.

Certainly at feeders they can be very aggressive to other species and consume a lot of seed. For this reason there are many products and home remedy methods for reducing House Sparrows. However, note that most of these are not well studied and can be a waste of money, or worse, harmful to native species. Since they are not protected you can try to humanely kill or trap the birds (however use caution with traps as to not get native species). You can also destroy nesting sites if you find them (again, be sure they are not a native species nesting site as it is illegal to harm most native bird species). House sparrows like to nest in buildings in crevices, vents, and other areas they can squeeze into.

Another option is to offer either a specific food site for the house sparrows, or to use food that is harder for them to eat. House sparrows like cracked corn a lot (it is also a very low cost bird feed). If you put a large amount of cracked corn at a feeder or two 10-20 feet away from your other feeders it may encourage the House Sparrows to give your other birds space. Note you should try to make sure the cracked corn is consumed within a few days (maybe longer in the winter) as a fungus can eventually form on the corn that can harm native species. House Sparrows also struggle with very thick shelled or large feed. Shelled peanuts, whole corn kernels, and stripped sunflower seeds are attractive to birds like blue jays, blackbirds, cardinals, grosbeaks and of course squirrels, however house sparrows will have a hard time with these foods. Nyger seed (often called thistle) is another option as it is attractive to finch species, but not house sparrows.

I have herd many anecdotes about hanging thicker monofilament strings from above your feeders. However again I have not personally seen studies that show this is effective. Fishing line can tangle birds, so you must use a thicker form of monofilament. Here is a sample design: http://www.sialis.org/halo.htm

Hope that helps!