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’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021
  • This breaks my heart. God strengthen your spirit and comfort your heart.I am fortunate to be taking a vacation next month, hopefully before sky high inflation hits and I can no longer afford it.
    by Ironweeds, Fri, 27 Aug 2021
  • What is emptying my jelly feeder overnight.
    by Gary Vandervest, Wed, 25 Aug 2021
  • Thank you, Dawn. I'm close enough to Ohio (Ann Arbor, Michigan) that I went ahead and took my tubes down and scoured clean all my bird baths. I won't put up my tubes this winter, just my trays and safflower only just to keep the bullies away for a while.
    by Pat Moore, Mon, 09 Aug 2021