first post - bird food that sparrows dont eat?

kris2001(6a - s.e.PA)May 20, 2007


This is my 1st post here! Can you guys recommend a seed or bird food that sparrows dont eat, but attracts orioles , finches etc? Last year i got discouraged when most of my feeder was emptied by these @#$% sparrows !!


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lisa11310(z5 MI)

Kris, The Sparrows are mainly attracted to the millet in the mixed seed. I use a feeder for Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS) and one for Niger Thistle (pronounced NYger)I also replace the mixed food I feed in the winter with Safflower Hearts in the very early spring. I make peanut butter suit in the cold months and replace it with the store bought kind that does not melt in the summer. You would be amazed at the different birds you will get by changing you seed! If you have problems with lots of HOSPS (I assume you mean House Sparrows, I would not feed ANY mixed food at all.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 9:41AM
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If you want Orioles, put out grape jelly, oranges, or nectar in feeders designed just for them. Finches like thistle, and if the hole is small enough, thay won't be able to get at it. Unfortunately, Lisa's correct. If they're House Sparrows, you may have to stop putting out regular seed. They prefer millet, however, they will eat almost anything else if it's not available, including Black Oil Sunflower seed.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 12:51PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Kris, all of us in this neighborhood have stopped putting out anything but niger thistle seed...the english sparrows were becoming overwhelming and it was to the point that we saw very little else in our yards year round (with the exception of robins).

Two years later, we have finches, both red and yellow, lots of chickadees again, gold crowned sparrows (not sure why, those can't feed from the thistle socks)... and a big plus, 4 pairs of swallows moved into nesting boxes this week that are not controlled by aggressive english sparrows any longer.

I couldn't help you with the orioles, much as I'd love to have them - not in this area. :)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 11:45AM
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Morz, I wish more people understood what the end result will be. I have noticed the same thing that the species diversity plummets the longer your encourage or don't do anything about the non-natives.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 8:15AM
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terryr(z5a IL)

When you trap the HOSP though, you have to do a little encouraging. I've notice a sharp decline in them around our here since I started trapping.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 9:46AM
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Terry, what do you mean by encouraging? I noticed the same thing. I have much more diversity around here and less plant diseases. It proves the point that diversity leads to overall ecosystem health. Not a scientific study or anything mind you, but just my own observations.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 11:07PM
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I have learned so much from this forum! Thanks to you good folks I have stopped refilling the feeders with cheap seed (millet mix) and purchased some black oil sunflower seeds. I had no idea before coming here that HOSPs were such a problem. We won't go so far as trapping them but I have noticed a sharp decline already. And their biker gang buddies, the grackles, have decreased their visits as well. Phew! Those guys must have a nest somewhere close because everytime we were out in the yard they'd yell at us. Kinda like the chihuahuas beyond the neighbour's fence. But at least the dogs respond to their owner's squirt gun.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 8:21AM
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lisa11310(z5 MI)

selkie, I spent a number of years feeding just the mixed food and didn't know a Sparrow from a Finch. LOL!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 9:03AM
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You mean they're two different birds? ;)

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 11:04AM
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so if I'm already using black oil sunflower and I'm still ganged up on by sparrows and grackles, now what?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 3:09PM
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Pull out the slingshot. KIDDING!!!!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 3:30PM
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I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think grackles are native birds. I am going to post a link and you can go and read about the HOSP problem. Beyond that, you have to make up your own mind.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bet's site

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 3:43PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

In order to trap the HOSP or EUST that already come into my yard uninvited and because they are such a huge problem here, I put down some cheap seed that they like on the ground near the trap and in the trap. From this site

* The two main types of traps are ground traps (baited and placed on the ground) and nestbox or inbox traps (used to catch a single HOSP entering or claiming a nestbox.) There are other types (mist net, bottomless pit, tipping can, etc.) that I am less familiar with. They are all live traps, which means they are not designed to kill the captured bird.
* See review of various types by Paula Ziebarth.
* If you only have a few HOSP, go with a nestbox trap, as they are less expensive, effective, and directly address the issue of proliferation and nestbox competition. They may also be more likely to catch the older agressive male. My personal favorite is the Van Ert.* If populations are higher, get a ground trap. These may be more likely to catch juveniles and first year males. My personal favorite is an escape proof repeating trap like the Deluxe Repeating Sparrow Trap.

I should of said to encourage them into the trap....sorry about the confusion.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 6:46PM
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The reason those damn things are such a problem is because the idiots in prison feed them because, get this, they think they're cute. They'll pick up a rock and throw it at a Starling that's singing a beautiful song (cause Starlings supposedly "bully" sparrows), but they'll feed the sparrows bread until the can barely fly! My suggestion is that you replace the millet in your feed with bullets and bbs. Ha-ha!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 2:21AM
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The only thing I've found that hosps won't eat is safflower and thisle seed. It took my other birds Dees, Titmice, Finches, Juncos and such a while to get used to the safflower but they do eat it now. I still feed boss and peanut butter suet and regular suet for the birds but the hosps will eat all of these if they can get to them.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 10:04AM
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joan754(z2a Saskatchewan)

I've stopped feeding the mixed seed to the house sparrows so now they go to the finch feeders. Who says they don't like nyger seed. They also love the black oil sunflower seeds. I have a magic halo around the sunflower feeder and for the first 2 weeks they were wary of it and wouldn't try feeding from it, but now, they are brave and hang on the vertical wires and even if I take out the perches all together, they still hang on the opening and get the seeds. They are not suppose to like suet, but they eat my suet. I don't think there is anything they don't eat. Their population is down considerably since I stopped with the mixed feed, but they are still around. Short of trapping them, I don't think anything deters them.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 11:01AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Joan, what kind of feeder (style) are you using? If it's one designed for only thistle seed and the sparrows are still feeding, cut the feeding perches down to about 1/4"...finches and the smaller birds that 'cling' to eat, like chickadees, will still be able to eat but the sparrows won't.

Many of the thistle feeders are designed to be sparrow proof, either made of metal mesh instead of actual designated openings - they can't hang from those to eat, or with perches above the feeding ports rather than below them, sparrows don't usually hang upside down to eat either.

Or try the thistle socks, mesh bags that only clinging type eaters can use. I have several and rotate them - when one is empty and dirty, I replace it with clean and fresh and toss the dirty one into the wash with jeans and hot water, soap to be ready for the next use.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 11:27AM
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joan754(z2a Saskatchewan)

Morz, I have both an upside down finch feeder and a right-side up one. The sparrows feed only from the right-side up one. I leave the right-side up feeder filled because it seems some finches have a hard time figuring them out, especially this time of the year. I still have some finches around and they go to the right-side up one; they seem very confused with the upside down one. I believe these are young finches so maybe they haven't figured them out yet. I will try cutting the perches to about 1/4" and see if that stops the sparrows. Cutting the perches on my sunflower feeder doesn't help as the sparrows cling to the openings if there are no perches. It greatly reduces the numbers but one thing I can say about house sparrows, they sure can figure things out lol.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 6:29PM
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lovefornature(5B IL)

I'm with bbcathy, the only kind of seed I can feed in this area is Thistle and Safflower. I cannot even put out BOSS or the HOSP will be into it.
I would love to be able to put out other seeds but can't find a feeder that HOSPs cannot overcome.
Now I just need to fix my covered deck so they will quit nesting there......

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 10:53PM
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    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 11:12AM
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For the first time ever, I am feeding SAFFLOWER seed exclusively and have seen no sparrows or grackels for the 3+ weeks since I started. BUT, I am getting a family of DOVES or PIDGEONS. I am getting the cardinals that I really wanted and am happy to also get tufted titmouses, chickadees, nuthatches, and NO SQUIRRELS (YAAAAAAYYYY!)
I love the safflower seed and will never go back to mixed seed. I'm afraid if I start nijer seed, I'll get the squirrels back. We only have a few sparrows around this neighborhood for some reason, so far so good.

Love this forum and the sharing. Thank you.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 9:33AM
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I exclusively use safflower. Chickadees love it. Mourning doves eat what falls on the ground. A cardinal family stops by too. I enjoy having all those species around. Happily I haven't seen any sparrows or starlings take an interest in it, but I have heard that sometimes they can adapt to it if they're hungry enough.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 10:46AM
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I found that monofilament fishing line repels sparrows. Haven't watched long enough to see if it repels other birds too

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 5:33PM
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Gentlemen and Gentleladies!
Thanks to all for you posts which helped solve my problems. I live in Toronto and last year installed a tube bird feeder which worked really well until the spring of this year when it was overwhelmed by sparrows and squirrels. Reading the above helped devise a satisfactory solution.
I should mention that feeder developed its own microcosm until the sparrows took over. Regular visitors to this source of food included - cardinals, chickadees, red-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, blue birds, cowbirds, grackles and the ground feeders such as mourning doves. squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and this past winter, deer.
They were a delight to watch until a combination of sparrows, squirrels and grackles displaced them, In particular between 35 - 50 sparrows would descend on the feeder and the surrounding area below and not budge until it was empty or chased away by the squirrels.

So here's what worked: I suspended a suet cage nearby and let the tube run out. The native birds migrated to the suet leaving the rest to quietly return to normal feeding habits. Now I have downy woodpeckers, chickadees, the nuthatches, cardinals and three grackles to marvel at. I am quietly discouraging the grackles with a spritz from the hose as they tend to devour a packet in less than 2 days.
Interestingly, the three grackles seem to have 2 sparrows in tow who feed on the scraps or may even work in a symbiotic relationship..not sure.
All in all, seems we have a winning recipe. I intend to add safflower seeds to the tube shortly.
Thanks again for the good ideas

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 12:06PM
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I have a whole peanut feeder. Basically it's just stainless steel mesh that you could put sunflower seeds in instead.

I don't get any sparrows or starlings. It'll last close to a month per fillings. I just saw a flicker, titmouse, blue jays, cardinal, chicadee, nuthatch.
It's cool because they all seem to take their turn on the feeder.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2014 at 11:20AM
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I'm with terryr here; just trap them. Usually, I trap for a few weeks in spring to keep their numbers down. I didn't take the time to do it this year, and they (House Sparrows) came back in force. They killed just about all the titmice, chickadees, and Downy Woodpeckers around. I had almost half of a a huge elderberry die off, due to sawflies. Usually, I'll see the woodpeckers pecking at it, killing off the sawflies before they cause a big problem. I also had an infestation of caterpillars in my trees that the chickadees and titmice usually eat. The House Sparrows just don't help out with insect problems like the native birds do. I won't neglect it next year, that's for sure.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2014 at 6:05PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

....and keep a close eye on the trap because native birds, smaller ones, can get in also. It's been 10 yrs, and I'm still fighting the HOSP and EUST....

    Bookmark   December 8, 2014 at 12:25PM
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