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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