Jan 22, 2014 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, February 2014

Five Tips for Welcoming Native Sparrows to Your Yard

White-crowned sparrows are among the many native sparrow species that winter in the United States. A little effort can go a long way towards making your backyard more inviting for these birds.
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Winter can bring more northerly sparrows into your yard. Here's how you can make your yard more inviting for native sparrows.

1. Offer white millet—or a seed blend that contains millet.

2. Present seed in ground or open tray feeders. Offering seed in ground feeders or a large open tray will give you the best chance of seeing these birds use a birdfeeder. Chipping, white-throated, and white-crowned sparrows and juncos are most likely to use these feeders. The other sparrows less so, but never say never!

3. Broadcast seed under feeders and in nearby shrubs. Some sparrow species are less likely to use a birdfeeder, so broadcasting seed on the ground will keep them happy. I've personally never seen a fox sparrow or the rarer sparrows on a birdfeeder. All the native sparrows are a little "spooky" and feel more comfortable foraging under shrubs, so toss some seed in those shrubs. Also spread it under birdfeeders for when they come out from the cover.

4. Keep cats indoors. Native sparrows feed primarily on the ground. Keep them safe by keeping cats indoors.

5. Water. Offer a water source such as a birdbath.

Some sparrow species may be year-round residents of your area. Others might be winter residents, and for others, your yard is just a respite on their long trip to the boreal forest of Canada. Later in the spring, you can help make their trip a little easier by making your yard a welcome spot for native sparrows.

About Nancy Castillo

Nancy Castillo is co-owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in Saratoga Springs, New York. You can follow the bird activity in her yard at The Zen Birdfeeder blog.

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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018