Feeding Birds

November 2014

Take Action November 20, 2014

Dos and Don’ts of Feeder Placement

Photo © Pat Cheal

Finding a Safe Place

Finding the perfect location for a bird feeder is a balancing act between getting the views you want and birds’ safety. Where do you watch birds from? Your patio? A kitchen window? The living room? You can start by limiting the possible area by deciding on a focus zone in the yard.

Next you need to check for known dangers to eliminate unsafe locations within that zone. Ornithologists estimate that millions of birds are killed each year by hitting windows. Window strike mortalities can be reduced by moving your feeders to within 3 feet of the window or greater than 30 feet away.

When feeders are close to a window, a bird leaving the feeder cannot gain enough momentum to do harm if it strikes the window. If feeders are more than 30 feet from a window, the birds are less likely to perceive windows as a pathway to other parts of your yard. Some ideas for safe locations including hanging a feeder at the corner of a house from the eaves, making it visible from a corner window, or from two sides of the house. Other people a fix a feeder directly to a window.

Another strategy is to place the feeder beyond the 30 foot danger zone. This might mean choosing a location across the yard from a house. Some people opt to create a special bird watching area tucked into a corner of their yard with a blinded seating area. This space might be in a secret grove, near a special bench, or behind a potting shed. Use the map below to see where in your yard is beyond the danger zone.

Find Your Bird Feeder Window Danger Zones

Place your feeder in a safe place!

1. Find your address and zoom in
2. Click on your windows (and close neighbors' windows) to draw danger zones
3. Place your feeders where there is no danger zone!

×clear danger zones

Cover Your Yard

The plant community around your feeder is full of opportunity. Brush piles and evergreen trees and shrubs can provide safe hiding places while consuming seeds gathered at the feeder. Birds often grab a seed, and retreat to cover to eat it.

The Path Taken

Think about the path of movement a bird might use to navigate your yard. Land corridors come on a scale as large as wooded strips connecting larger woodland areas, but can also be as simple as a line of shrubs along a sidewalk. Such areas can facilitate the movement of many small animals, but especially birds, from tree to tree, until they find a safe habitat. Not only do minimal corridors aid in the movement of birds, they are also aesthetically pleasing. You can plant to support these kinds of movements around your yard.

Winter Cover

Bird feeding is often done in the winter, when plants have little or no dense coverage. In cold places, evergreens near a feeder can provide an excellent option for providing birds with safe cover. Here are some great native evergreen choices for regions around the US:

Evergreen choices by region

You can also provide cover with a strategically placed brush pile. Brush piles can be tidy or wild, alive or dead. Some people even use theirs and their neighbors’ discarded christmas trees as a base for a brush pile.

While at the feeder, birds are often out in the open, making them a target for local predators. A distance of about 10 feet from feeder to brush pile or shrub helps keep feeders out of a cat’s striking distance (even though they might hide behind the cover).

Learn more about brush piles

Visit the brush pile page on YardMap.

Think About Your Yard Structure

Diversity of planting levels means more hiding places for more kinds of birds. This is a good rule of thumb for your yard in general, not just around the feeder. Think about high/ mid/ low-level vegetation to provide spaces for a variety of birds with a variety of preferences.

Download The Story Of The Stories Poster

story

Vist YardMap's Habitat Defined: Structure page to download

Baffle the Competition

Squirrels often cause problems by chewing through feeders and preventing birds from visiting, so you may need a strategy for baffling these rodents. Many people use a shepherd's hook with a barrier on the pole preventing squirrels from accessing the feeder (see above photo). Suspending a feeder from a cable that stretches across an open space is another option, though some squirrels learn to walk the tightrope. Although different birds prefer feeding at different heights, a rule of thumb for a backyard feeder is to hang it from 5 to 8 ft off the ground. Some people hang feeders in trees, but this makes it much easier for squirrels to gain access. A baffle above the feeder can help deter squirrels, as can putting the feeder out of their jump zone (they can jump from 8-10 feet sideways).

Other things to keep in mind when placing feeders:

  • Put feeders in a location you don’t mind visiting to refill (think about walking through snow, access to seed, water for cleaning, etc.).
  • Moving feeders periodically helps prevent build-up of waste.
  • Putting a feeder nearish (but not over) a water feature like a bird bath, will almost ensure that birds find your feeder.
  • Noise and too much action, like along a sidewalk or street will be deterrents for birds, and possibly even dangerous if they fly out in front of a fast moving car.

Collect Feeder Data for Science

Join Project FeederWatch and monitor the birds at your feeder!

This Month’s Articles

BirdSpotter Highlights: Beautiful Feeder Birds

Slideshow November 26, 2014

Dos and Don’ts of Feeder Placement

Take Action November 20, 2014

Top 10 FeederWatch Birds in 2013-14

From Our Data November 13, 2014

Easy to Make Pinecone Bird Feeders

Take Action November 7, 2014

129 Comments

  1. Very cool map feature here with the danger zones. Clever.

    • Donna F. says:

      i didn’t notice that map with the 30 foot zone feature until I read your comment. That was very helpful. Glad you pointed that out.

    • john says:

      if your in a city maybe, but feeding wild birds is not a good thing for the eco system, just a selfish thing for people.

  2. RebeccaK says:

    What are your best ideas for discouraging squirrels? We don’t really have any place that they won’t try to climb. I even had a hanging feeder once, and a squirrel jumped 3 feet vertically off the ground to reach it. One of the critters later chewed through the rope up where it was tied to the tree limb and brought it back down to ground level. Squirrels!

  3. Kathleen Stevens says:

    Put food for small birds in a place where larger preditor birds won’t get them. If you feen in the same place for a while, the hawks learn that this is a good place to have a little bird for dinner.

  4. John Davies says:

    Have several feeders – sunflower seeds – niger seeds – homemade suet. Feeders under eaves of my deck and about 3 meters away from a dense cedar hedge. Live in the country with nearest neighbour almost a Km away, so no dangers from cats. Lots of fun watching and photo opportunities. Feeders already out. Seemed like it took the chickadees about 2 minutes to find them and the jays soon followed.

  5. Deb S says:

    My dream is to meet the people who actually read articles like this and implement the ideas. It’s hard to believe they even exist.

  6. Tony Spinelli says:

    I have a flock of house sparrows at my feeders that I would love to get rid of. Can you recommend a house sparrow trap? What’s the most humane way of disposing them after I trap them?

    Thanks for any help you can give me!

    • Bonnie Weber says:

      Go to sparrowtraps.net
      I have caught over 120 HS since I bought it 2 yrs ago.
      Use millet as bait and don’t use it in any feeders so they will come.
      Mine is on a picnic table on the porch next to a bush they like to hang out in.
      Once you catch one the others come…..vey nosey birds. Keep food and water in the trap and leave one bird. I cover it at night with a towel so they will rest and not keep hitting the sides of the cage.
      If you have a local raptor rescue they might take them if you don’t have the stomach to kill them. I do cervicle dislocation…..very quick.
      PLEASE don’t re-release them somewhere else.

      • Lauren Zulli says:

        Whats wrong with you people ? You are the Hitlers of the bird world-you don’t prefer to watch the sparrows so you kill them ? Pretty sick if you ask me !

        • Vicky mckenzie says:

          I totally agree with you Lauren tHey are very cruel!

        • bridget cooper says:

          I agree that it is wrong to kill house sparrows just because they are an “invasive species.” If you follow that rule, then everyone in North America except for the Native Americans are invasive species. The world is in flux. People and birds move. Can’t we just accept that?

          • terry lbdell says:

            House sparrows are the Norway rat of the bird kingdom and destroy ever native bird nest within their territory. They have to be humanely disposed of or they will eliminate most native birds. This is why at city feeders 90% of the birds that come are house sparrows.

          • Jimbo says:

            Um, even Native Americans are invasive. No humans originated in the Americas.

          • Bridget says:

            this comment is for Bridget. Posted on January 18, 2015. I was a bit creeped out when I seen a post from another Bridget. Not only do we have the same name and I agree with you 100% but you posted your comment on my birthday.

        • Teressa says:

          Yes!!! Thank you!!! Good lord – what is wrong with people?? It’s a BIRD feeder and you’re trapping and killing BIRDS for using it??? Sick. I don’t even care if the squirrels come – they’re hungry, too – why shouldn’t they have something to eat? It’s outside, it’s wide open – like they know it isn’t for them and are taking it just to be jerks? Animals are animals – they need to survive. Nasty people like this will hopefully get their own one day. My father used to get mad at the squirrels for taking peaches from our trees and would trap and release them elsewhere. Until I came home to a trapped squirrel and released the poor thing and said I would continue to do so Hehehe. He hasn’t bothered much since.

          • humewood says:

            I logged onto this site to find out if I could get Juncos to land on a tube feeder. What I am reading really shocks me. We have sparrows galore, tons of house finches, american goldfinches, juncos, nuthatches, cardinals, jays and yes, pigeons and squirrels. I credit the sparrows with attracting the goldfinches to my rear porch. What is with all the birdie racists out there? It isn’t up to people to rid the world of so called alleged undesirables. I once had a baby starling that sang to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and sang better than a canary. Should we kill all of them too? God has a way of dealing with this. We are not God. The other day, a pigeon sat plunk in the middle of my heated bird bath while the starlings splashed around him. Each time they made a big splash, the pigeon lifted his wing to catch the shower of drops. No kidding! It was an example of the music of the spheres, perfect harmony.

      • Nathalie Rockhill says:

        This is pretty shocking, and unethical. If you set out to attract and feed birds, accept what comes. Wild birds (and anything else in nature) don’t exist for humans’ entertainment. Killing for food is one thing. Killing as a way of increasing your pleasure in a hobby is surely wrong, isn’t it? Why not get more info about alternative ways to attract the birds you’d especially like to see? I hope you reconsider your approach.

        • J Viole says:

          REMOVED- don’t suggest killing people or equate it with removal of an unprotected, invasive species.

          • Lisa says:

            I am very disturbed by the comments about killing sparrows. I did not expect to see something like that posted on here, but I guess one never knows when or where a sicko may turn up….I am completely disgusted….

      • John says:

        House sparrows kill many of the native species. How is it “shocking and unethical” to remove an introduced, invasive species from the landscape? Get back to me on how “sicko” it is to remove house sparrows when you find a bluebird nest with the mother pecked to death and the chicks killed by a house sparrow.

        • albert bechtel says:

          I an outraged that these people are talking about killing sparrows. Just put up with them or don’t feed the birds, but there will be no more talk of killing them. There is something definitely wrong with people like you who have to resort to killing birds because you don’t want them around. Too bad. They have as much right to live as you do. When you love animals it should include all of them. I think you need a psychiatrist. You have a problem.

          • Barbara says:

            I totally agree Albert. I am appalled that someone who calls themselves a “birder” would kill birds they don’t like. There are many suggestions here for repelling and attracting the birds you want to see. I think these people should find another hobby. They clearly don’t respect animals.

        • William Green says:

          Agreed John. Obviously there seems to be a disconnect with many on the concept of management.

      • Laura Jackson says:

        Totally disgusting and shameful. Stop feeding birds if you have to kill your non preferred type. Un flippin believable!

        • Susan says:

          Appalling. Totally unexpected discussion on how to kill birds at a site dedicated to the love of birds. Sickening to me. I really think moderators should be removing the vermin here. Will think twice before visiting again.

          • Kevin Ripka says:

            Let me preface this by saying that I do work at the Lab in citizen science, but I am not a scientist. However, I am in charge of this website in an editorial and design capacity. My opinions are my own and not the lab’s, but should lab policy dictate it, comments will be handled appropriately.

            But in regards to ‘removing the vermin’ I am allowing open dialog on a complex issue. We are a society based on differing opinions and free speech.

            The way I see it, on one hand there is an ethical dilemma and argument that all life is precious and killing, particularly in a ‘wasteful’ capacity–that is, not for food–is wrong. (And even some people don’t condone killing for food.) On the other hand, it is a fact that the house sparrow is an invasive, unprotected species that is detrimental to our natural avifauna. It all depends on which you ultimately value more and both sides can have valid arguments. I suggest that comments aren’t full of hyperbole or accusatory, but instead try to strive for valid argumentation. As of right now, the only comment removed, or that will be removed, are any that suggest harming or threaten your fellow man.

            If you follow the link posted in the comment by Dr. Emma Greig, you will see that the lab offers up solutions for both sides, from deterrent solutions to active control.

          • Barbara says:

            I totally disagree Kevin. A BIRDwatching site should not be about killing birds!

      • Max D. says:

        The problem with killing English sparrows in one yard is that the neighboring population will just move in; think squirrels, rabbits, mice, etc.

      • Xavier A says:

        Dear Bonnie,
        We live near in Donna, Texas, not far from the famed Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. For each Great Kiskadee Flycatcher, Green Jay, Chachalaca, Carolina Chickadee, House Finch, Northern Flicker or Tufted Titmouse visiting our feeders, I see 20 to 30 common house sparrows. Unlike virtually all other birds, common house sparrows are voracious eaters and exceedingly prolific breeders. Thank you for offering reasonable and ethical methods for controlling them.
        Ho Ho Ho … Merry Christmas to all.
        Your fellow, humble birder for more than 40 years.

      • Evelyn Ball says:

        Typical human being, destroy what YOU don’t like. It was your precious humans who brought these birds here so live with it. They all have a place here. Don’t bother feeding birds if you can’t handle all species. So easy for humans to kill another species but when it comes to us a big damn deal is made.

      • Robin Maroney says:

        How inhumane to set a trap to kill sparrows. All creatures want to live. All need food and water. My sparrows eat right along side my cardiunals and chickadees. How hypocritical to feed some species and kill others. If you are going to trap them then drive them to a nature preserve type area. Who are you to decide who lives and who dies? I have a hawk that has been a threat in my yard. I will never hurt it. I have chased it away enough by banging pans it has left this area. Don’t put yourself out there as someone who feeds the birds and helps them. Your behavior is cruel and unnecessary and sickening.

      • ekek says:

        And we should never feed the trolls.
        You have now been relegated to troll status.

    • Jerome Santiago says:

      Do you have smaller hawks in your area? If so, place a feeder at the base of tall trees to try and attract the smaller hawks. A few years ago I noticed a Swainson’s Hawk or two that stalk my primary feeder when the sparrows are raiding it and chirping up a storm. I’ve seen him/her swoop down and snatch a sparrow from time to time and I even spooked a hawk out of a tall juniper along the fence line. I found sparrow feathers at the base so I assumed the hawk was munching one. That said, I begrudgingly accept that 90% of my bird food goes to sparrows, and I buy the good stuff, so I have a secondary feeder that the gold finches, juncos and other birds work over while the sparrows are making a ruckus over at the other one.

    • jennie bell says:

      Mr. Spinelli-
      I understand your concerns about this particular non- native species – however, I don’t think trying to trap and kill the flock is the answer. Firstly- the flock you get rid of will most likely be replaced by another flock of house sparrows. Try a more passive approach – perhaps putting out different kinds of seed not favored by the invaders. Remember the House Sparrows did not ask to come here.

      • Evelyn Ball says:

        Exactly…the house sparrow did not ask to come here. But, as usual, they suffer the price because of the stupid human being.

  7. Emma Greig says:

    For people interested in passive methods for discouraging house sparrows, we have tips about this on the NestWatch website here:

    http://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/managing-house-sparrows-and-european-starlings/

    At feeders, we suggest that you offer foods that house sparrows do not appreciate, such as safflower for Northern Cardinals, nyjer or “thistle” seeds for finches, and nectar for hummingbirds. Avoid putting out mealworms and suet, or scattering seed on the ground. Feeders with short perches and small ports are also less attractive to house sparrows.

    Emma Greig
    Project FeederWatch
    Cornell Lab of Ornithology

    • Andrew Slager says:

      Ms. Greig,

      My house sparrows have taken over the thistle feeder. Like all weaver birds they are voracious eaters and these pests have learned to love thistle seed. In fact, its so bad the goldfinch no longer feed at the feeder at all. I do not wish to kill the house sparrows and so I would welcome any suggestions to keep them away.

  8. Luanne Kipka says:

    I just joined this site today. I’m glad to see that killing birds is not the norm! I just put up with the sparrows. I try to buy generic seed for them and more expensive seed for the desirable birds in another feeder. So far it’s working out OK. I really stocked up on different types of seed last time so I all the birds can have what they want.

  9. Rick Greene says:

    i had poor success when providing a Christmas tree as cover. A hawk used it . I’ve found that placing the feeder inside the many branches of a large lilac works well. It is open enough to allow detection of hawks, while providing protection with the network of small branches.

    And as far as the sparrows being non-native – so are humans on this content. And we humans, after arriving here have also killed native species and have caused a few to become extinct. It seems that trapping sparrows to kill is a loosing battle and will never erraticate them. So why engage in something unpleasant? Yes they may prey on native species, but the natives seem to have survived regardless. Unfortunately some native species preyed upon by humans have not survived. Should we have been eradicated?

    • Kevin Ripka says:

      Actually, let me play devil’s advocate to your statement of “It seems that trapping sparrows to kill is a losing battle and will never eraticate them.” The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America and is now extinct due to manmade intervention. I do realize it was the flocking strategy of passenger pigeons that really helped with their easy eradication, but it is also proof that we can conceivably consciously eradicate a species if we wanted to.

      As to your statement, “Yes they may prey on native species, but the natives seem to have survived regardless.” Well, the game isn’t over and you can’t really take tally. The whole situation is still ongoing and the buzzer hasn’t sounded. We don’t fully know what will ultimately survive in the context of anthropogenic movements of species.

      I won’t touch us having been eradicated, but I take a more pragmatic view that what has happened, has happened. Now we’re in a state where we have to make decisions of how to move forward, not play a game of wistful what-ifs.

      And this is a conversation bigger than just house sparrows. What about invasive plants in your yard? Do you pull them up? Let them be? Surely most people don’t have a moral reaction to pulling out a plant. But talking about house sparrows maybe is the same. Or maybe it’s not. I don’t know. What does everyone else think?

      • Mitch Nixon says:

        Really? Pulling up a weed compares to snapping a sparrows neck??!! Sparrows in my opinion are not an invasive species. None native yes. Humans imported them, with no clue on what might happen. If I didn’t have sparrows I wouldn’t go out of my way to attract them.

        I do have more sparrows than I would like but the action of the sparrows has brought the many other birds I have never witnessed in 50 years to the yard. Lazuli Bunting anyone? Yellow warbler, Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Chickadee, 23 other species in all.

        As far as discouraging sparrows NONE of the suggestions work here. Sparrows here eat nyger, suet, hang off nut cages, eat white safflower, you name it the will find away to eat it. Log feeders I made for woodpeckers they can’t land on so they hover like a humming birds pecking the the holes filled with food. If I scatter on the ground they will tend to leave the feeders alone.

        Maybe I should create a whole report on the adaptation behaviours displayed by these local sparrows, Cornell is interested in Bird Behaviour correct?

        Happy bird watching.

        • William Green says:

          Lets not equate all sparrow with the house sparrow that is being conversed about. Most of the other sparrows that visit my feeders are native, i.e.Tree sparrow, chipping etc

        • Gloria Gwynne says:

          Let me preface that I had never heard of the idea of removing pest sparrows from the yard, let alone do it, before answering your question.
          Yes, invasive species are equivalent, whether plant, animal, or other. All life has a will to live. I believe that God’s order to be fruitful and multiply lies in the 50% of our DNA that we share with slime-mold. When we single out cute warm blooded animals as the only ones to show compassion toward, we are being unfairly biased against the slime-mold. And while the individuals of each species are just following that DNA mandate, the species that we humans introduced that benefit from their association with us in their overtaking of others need to be managed. We have dominion over them and the weaker species that they will displace. While this goes for pampas grass and Scotch thistle, it also goes for argentine ants, German roaches, and Norwegian rats, as much as it does for feathered pests.

      • Whitfield says:

        From the Cornell Lab website: “But House Sparrows, with their capacity to live so intimately with us, are just beneficiaries of our own success.”

      • David Israel says:

        An interesting conversation with lots of hype and strong feelings on both sides. I have fed birds and photographed them at and near my feeders for several years now, and have wished that I would get a few house sparrows once in a while so that I could shoot them with my Nikon. Maybe it is what I feed the birds, I don’t know. I feed the black oil sunflower seeds in the shell, I feed suet cakes and sometimes I put up a feeder with a peanut butter – shortening – cornmeal mix, and I think that in several years I have seen a house sparrow there once. I know that it is not because there are none in the area, I see them at the dairy farm a couple of miles away, but not here. Does not feeding millet and cracked corn help keep the sparrows away?

  10. Stephen L says:

    If you don’t want sparrows at your feeder, stop feeding the birds. With the mentality of Tony Spinelli, killing birds he doesn’t want around, I guess I should start to slaughter all the Grackles, Doves, Jays, and ducks that eat the bird seed I leave out for other species. Why don’t I just kill every bird that comes to my feeder so I can enjoy looking at a feeder full of bird seed?
    All birds need a little bit of help nowadays so to realistically think you can get rid of one species for another is idiotic. You, Tony Spinelli, have no business with birds, do the world a favor and stop feeding them. Find another hobby.

  11. Ronald Zigler says:

    I offer no excuse for humans killing any birds, however, I believe the facts point toward domestic and feral house cats as the biggest threat to songbirds. We stopped putting up feeders on account of neighborhood cats. Only the hummingbird gets a feeder in the summer. We may put up suet, but seed feeders draws birds to the ground around the feeder and that attracts cats.

  12. Walter wickenburg says:

    The people defending House Sparrows are the real sickos. House Sparrows are murderous illegal aliens and need to be removed from America.

    How about you actually defend native species like Eastern Bluebirds that are finally only recovering from the decimation that House Sparrows and European Starlings did to them.

    You could have many different and new native species of birds in your yard if these bullies didn’t exist.

    Long live our native birds!

    • jamorris says:

      Interesting use of language here. “Illegal aliens?” If we looked at humans in the same way you are discussing birds, then all of us in America are not “native.” We have been pretty invasive to native peoples, have we not? “Invasive species” is a scientific term that is in no way political or sociological in connotation. Seems some of these posts hold biases that having nothing to do with science and a whole lot to do with particulars like race and political territories. Just sayin’.

  13. Bryan Grant says:

    I will disagree without being disagreeable Kevin Ripka -I appreciate your approach here. I try to provide a feed that is preferred by the birds I hope to attract that’s my only strategy. When i see an idea I don’t like I’ll move on. I don’t like demonizing and insulting someone who doesn’t do it like myself.
    by the way I saw a blast of feathers near the feeder one day and witnessed a hawk consume a bird on a nearby tree, Wowed by the ways of nature -all of it

  14. Dennis says:

    Please folks, look much more closely at those “sparrows” at your feeders. You will find there are much more than just sparrows but other species very closely resembling sparrows in size, plumage & color. There will likely be House Finches, Purple Finches, Goldfinches (in winter plumage), House wrens, Juncos, Red Polls, Nuthatches, Pine Siskins etc. Your attempt to eliminate one species WILL result in eliminating your many favorite little winter visitors. Get you binoculars and a good Bird ID Book and look very closely at the subtle differences in the species, you will be amazed.You will also find there may be very few actual sparrows at you feeder, the other species tend to deter the sparrows.

    In addition to the above welcome little visitors we get lots of adorable chickadees, Downy woodpeckers, Northern Flickers and of course our lovable neighborhood family of 4 Blue Jays. Please folks, love all species, not just selective ones because you like them. Nature is in control, NOT us.

    • Walter wickenburg says:

      I don’t know where you are from but where I am from and I assume with countless others, House Sparrows dominate my feeders and scare away the chickadees and house finches and all the other birds. It is easy to tell house sparrows from other species and see that they scare away other birds.

      It’s insulting to say that us bird feeders can’t tell House Sparrows from other birds. Plus it is illegal to kill native species so thinking that anyone trapping House Sparrows would kill a native species when they pull the bird out of a trap is also misguided. Give us feeder watchers some credit.

    • Xavier A says:

      Dear Dennis,
      We live near in Donna, Texas, not far from the famed Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. For each Great Kiskadee Flycatcher, Green Jay, Chachalaca, Carolina Chickadee, House Finch, Northern Flicker or Tufted Titmouse visiting our feeders, I see 20 to 30 common house sparrows. For the record, none of these birds, even to casual observers without binoculars and bird books, look nothing like common house sparrows. Common house sparrows are voracious eaters and exceedingly prolific. Let’s give people a break, when it comes offering reasonable, and ethical methods for controlling them.
      Merry Christmas to all.
      Your fellow, humble birder for more than 40 years.

  15. John S says:

    In addition to using bird seeds not preferred by House Sparrows, I have had success in discouraging their use of my tube feeder by installing a homemade version of a commercial product called Magic Halo. A web search will yield information on this device and its concept. I have fabricated two of my own with materials available from hardware and craft stores: a 30″ wreath making hoop, galvanized chain, monofilament, and fishing sinkers. To prevent large birds from entanglement in the dangling monofilament, I attach it to the hoop with small magnets, which disengage when the monofilament is yanked. (I learned this the hard way when my wife and I had to free a panicked hawk wihich had one of its wings entangled. After a brief recovery period, it flew into the woods apparently unharmed in any serious way.)

  16. Ann McDonald says:

    I have also found many other species attending my little feasts! I don’t know why people dislike squirrels so much. I adore them and offer them almonds (other birds don’t like these so much) and other nuts which they enjoy. I also offer dog kibble to the crows when it is below freezing here because they have a hard time finding food. I love to study them and I get to know them as individuals.
    I would like to say that calling other people names is really not the right way to go.

    • Laura Gaunnac says:

      Ann, I think squirrels are cute little rascals and very entertaining to watch, but it still annoys me when they get into a bird feeder I have filled with expensive, “no hulls” bird food. In an attempt to distract the squirrels from the bird food, I mounted a darling little Adirondack chair feeder on a nearby tree and put a log of squirrel food on it. Well, the squirrels found my offering to them, but they STILL devour the expensive bird seed! grrrr! I guess I have a love / hate relationship with the furry little beasties!

      • john cronk says:

        I’ve spent countless hours in a battle of wits with squirrels. Whatever measure you take, you then have to monitor carefully and see the way in which the squirrel overcomes it. Each situation is unique. I now have feeders which are hanging under the eave, far enough away from the gutter so that they can’t hang down and get them and far enough above the deck floor they can’t jump up to them. I also have a Brome Squirrel Buster Plus hanging from a horizontal rod 3 feet from the deck railing. They can jump to it, but can’t get any feed from it.

  17. Leslie Morris says:

    At the risk of attracting vitriolic comments from those who do not choose to distinguish between protected native bird species and invasive non-natives, I want to report that I’ve had some success with discouraging house sparrows with the “magic halo” on my feeders. The device is no longer marketed, but there are diy plans on the web. Just google it.

    • Dan says:

      I’ve had good luck with the magic halo as well. The halo part doesn’t help, but the hanging wires do. House sparrows used to devour my suet and rip holes in my nyjer sock. A couple years ago I put a halo over the sock and hung a couple wires from sticks next to the suet cage and the house sparrows no longer touch either of them. It’s not perfect, though. I have a halo with hanging wires on my sunflower seed feeder. Most house sparrows turn away from the wires, but not all. Especially during winter, a few house sparrows will get on the feeder and thrash the seeds around. Two or three dozen sparrows will perch on the ground under the feeder, waiting for seeds to get tossed overboard. My seed is lasting a lot longer than it used to, but even just a few sparrows can dump a lot of seed onto the ground pretty quickly. I don’t have a problem with people who trap and dispose of house sparrows, as it would be a huge boon to the birding world if all house sparrows disappeared from North America tomorrow, but I don’t have it in me to do that so the magic halo is a pretty good alternative.

  18. Marc P says:

    Coming into the conversation late but I have to agree with a lot of the people here. You don’t like sparrows at your bird feeder here are some things you can do. 1) move, 2) don’t feed the birds 3) figure out more inventive ways to attract different birds. And for the “complicated topic” re: non-native species. Get over it. Humans are a non-native species as well. Think about that next time you trap and kill an animal for some asinine reason.

  19. Tom Knapp says:

    Invasive House Sparrows: I’ve personally seen them kill my Tree Swallows and then build right on top of them . . .multiple times. So with that, I now dispatch them periodically. When I do, they, along with any window kills I’ve found, go into the Screech Owl box. Circle of life continues, as they are always consumed.

    • Robyn Bailey says:

      I too have seen them kill female Tree Swallows in the nest box, and all of the babies. It’s very disheartening when you’ve worked so hard to help native birds. Helping a family of screech-owls survive seems reasonable to me, but I believe in a person’s right to choose whether to actively manage their own property, or not. Wildlife managers have to make these tough decisions on our public lands all the time: will you have feral hogs or ground-nesting birds? Introduced brown tree snakes have decimated birds on the island of Guam. There are countless other examples, it seems reductive to fixate on House Sparrows. I recommend reading the official position statement of The Wildlife Society, the professional society of our nation’s wildlife managers who are charged with protecting native biodiversity: http://bit.ly/1yTT7Bd. We will all manage our properties according to our own values, but let’s not reduce those who remove House Sparrows as immoral or “enjoying their task”; they simply have different values which is their right to have.

  20. David Moulton says:

    We have found a way to keep the House Sparrows off of our feeders (but not out of the area).

    At our house in NW Colorado we put out cylindrical mesh feeders. We have clear plastic domes just above the feeders to keep most of the snow off of the feeders. My wife read somewhere that hanging fishing line from the domes would deter Sparrows. I drilled 3 small holes spaced evenly around the base edges of the domes. I tied mono-filament fishing line to these holes and attached weights to the bottoms of the lines (fishing weights or a couple of heavy metal nuts work fine). The lines extend a few inches below the bottoms of the feeders. The weights keep the lines hanging straight down even in a breeze and prevent entanglement.

    Before I deployed the fishing lines, our feeders were mobbed with House Sparrows. Since I deployed the fishing lines several years ago, I have never seen a House Sparrow on the feeders. Now the Sparrows come around and sit on the nearby fence staring hungrily at the feeders but they won’t go near them. Sometimes the Sparrows feed on the ground eating the seed that the other birds have spilled.

    The various Finches (House, Gold & Cassin’s), the Chickadees and Flickers all ignore the fishing lines and chow down quite happily at the feeders. Occasionally some of the Finches even hang on to a fishing line as a perch. I have never seen a bird get entangled in the line.

    I don’t know why it works, but it does and it was simple and cheap to set up.

  21. John J. Todd says:

    Those who are complaining about killing English sparrows are apparently completely ignorant of the fact that English sparrows and European starlings were brought to this continent in the 1800’s by an Englishman who wanted to have the birds from his country over here. They are also ignorant of the fact that these birds are very aggressive cavity nesters that have multiplied by the hundreds of millions, maybe billions, and have greatly reduced and are still reducing the populations of some of our beautiful native birds. They enter the nests of our native birds, destroy the eggs, kill the babies, and sometimes even the adults. They have no place in the North American environment, and should be removed in any way possible. Those who advocate for tolerating them need to educate themselves on this subject, and their attitudes will likely change.

  22. Wally says:

    Each of you is entitled to have and express your opinion on house sparrows (or anything else). I just wish you could do it without the name-calling. If you seek to change another’s opinion, you always will fail when you make it personal.

  23. Chris Reeve says:

    European House Sparrows are in the same category as house mice and Norway rats. They don’t belong here and they are harmful to native species. In addition they are prolific and acclimated to feeding off human detritus. Would you feed mice in your house if you discovered them? How many mice would be too many? Would you get rid of your cat if it killed a mouse?

    I keep a sharp eye on my feeder and remove it when there are more than 2-3 house sparrows. I put it back out a day or two later and the native species find it within an hour while the sparrows don’t figure it out for a day or two. Doesn’t help the problem but at least I don’t have to look at hoards of 20-30 house sparrows on my feeders.

  24. Patty rosen says:

    I live a charmed life. My 15 feeders are covered with pine sis kind, finches, crossbills, …the list goes on and on. Yes, the house sparrows visit. But for the negative passion that many are exhibiting abut them , I am spared. I can’t imagine what it feels like to feel so annoyed.

  25. cheryl miller says:

    How can I feed birds without drawing pigeons? they are much worse than sparrows here

  26. Bob says:

    Our closest feeder is a little over 30′ from our picture window and we had a lot of strikes until we put up venetian blinds. We’ve had one bird strike in two years since the blinds went up, this is after two or three bird strikes monthly before the blinds. The blinds don’t block that much of our view and it’s worth it since it has almost done away with bird strikes.

  27. Marc P says:

    I have to comment again. I understand the problems that invasive species can cause and and the potential for significant economic repercussions. I am not naive. However, we are talking about birds that were brought here over 100 years ago. When are they no longer considered an invasive species? Look at the negative impacts humans have on habitat and species survival and migration patterns and just about anything else. We are an invasive species but I don’t see any calls for culling humans on this site.

    Some of you may truly be calling for a return to a pre-agricultural ecosystem and that is fine if you are consistent. However, I think the rest of you are just trying to justify your selective killing of a species because you personally don’t like them and to that I call bullshit. If you want to condone the extermination of a species or a large number of them you should at least have some sort of stable philosophical underpinning besides “because I want to”.

    And I think that I am most confused about why someone would post asking about how to trap and kill birds at their feeder on this site to begin with??

  28. Chad says:

    The less invasive species, the better. End of statement.

    Kill all the house sparrows, feral cats, European starlings, cockroaches, zebra mussels, Asian carp, Russian olive, etc. you’d like or stop pretending to understand a damn thing about ecology.

  29. Joan says:

    No question that house sparrows are an invasive species and detrimental to our native birds, But a handful or a few hundred handfuls of backyard birders “removing” them is not going to make a lick of difference in the big picture. If you are one of those, you are fooling yourself in thinking that you are doing “good” by our natives instead of selfishly choosing favorites for you viewing pleasure. Get involved in improving native habitats in your area – that will go much further in helping our native birds. Then pretend you are in England and enjoy the cheery antics of the visitors you can’t avoid anyway.

    • alan rider says:

      Joan, I am sure you have heard the story about the little boy who walks the seashore after a storm has washed many many starfish etc onto the beach. The little boy throws them back into the ocean. A man watching the boy doing this and seeing all the starfish on the beach tells the little boy ‘YOU can’t make a difference, there are to many.’ The boy throws another back into the ocean and replies, ‘I bet I made a difference to that one’.
      You are right, in the big picture reducing the house sparrow population in my back yard does very little. In my back yard, it has huge implications and very positive results.

  30. LeRoy Tabb says:

    Many here who are arguing against any control over the population of House Sparrows are saying that people shouldn’t be killing birds because they don’t like them or find them annoying. I belong to a bird club and this topic has come-up on several occasions, and I can assure you that no one likes to kill House Sparrows (or any other bird or animal), and it isn’t done because they are annoying. The people who have had occasion to eliminate House Sparrows are people who have enjoyed and studied birds most of their lives, and when they find it necessary to eliminate a House Sparrow it’s because they feel that it’s the most environmentally sound and environmentally healthy choice.

    If a House Sparrow is found usurping a Bluebird nest, is it better to kill that one sparrow, or potentially dozens of Bluebirds? By allowing a House Sparrow family to invade a Bluebird nest, we are effectively killing the Bluebirds. If the House Sparrows remain unchecked, eventually, the birding landscape will become monolithic, and all we will see is House Sparrows.

    It’s not the House Sparrow’s fault, and no one is suggesting we eliminate the entire population of House Sparrows, but they are an introduced, and, yes–invasive–species. Man caused the problem by introducing them, it would seem to me that we’d compound that mistake by letting the House Sparrows completely displace native species.

    But really the bottom line is that this is a complex and nuanced topic. We are all bird enthusiasts, so rather than rail against those on either side of this debate, we should take time to better understand it from all sides.

  31. Martin says:

    Humans are non native? Just because people crossed over to Americas many thousands of years ago without being transported unwillfully isn’t at all the same as the willful introduction of birds and many other life forms that are now considered threatening to the native landscape.
    Starlings and house sparrows are exceedingly wary. I have virtually none around my house. I shoot on sight. As soon as the door slides open to aim my gun those birds take off and rarely return. Over the years I have shot less and less. I’ve educated their population about what a safe place my yard isn’t. I’m maintaining a bubble that has lasted and appears to be strengthening.
    And the other birds don’t mind at all. I don’t “feel” for individual birds but place huge importance on populations and balance. In cities I can literally almost step on sparrows on the sidewalk. Before sparrows arrived purple martins commonly nested under eaves in cities. Now it is a real challenge to attract breeding martins to a well-situated gourd pole in the country,
    However there is a distinct down trend in sparrow populations in many locales. Hurray! I wish the same was true of starlings. Let us weed our own gardens please with out judging others. Starlings and house sparrows are well documented as bad birds. In my life time there were even gov’t bounties on these birds!

    • John J. Todd says:

      Good for you, Martin! I’m with you.

    • Marc P says:

      Oh please. Just because we crossed over willingly does not mean we are native. Do you think the sparrows don’t want to be here? Weed our own gardens huh? Again I am going to call bullshit. In cities? What city and where? We have had a bird feeder in the middle of Brooklyn with an enormous amount of different bird species. When we had a feeder with too many pigeons and doves for our desires we changed the type of feeder we had, we didn’t kill the f’ing birds. And we still like pigeons and doves.

      I guess my question is who the f are you to decide these things? Don’t hide behind the invasive species bs or you might want to loose your intestinal bacteria long with your sparrows.

      And I don’t want to come across as too combative, although I know I am acting that way. i just wish there was a more cohesive philosophy around it. Fine, kill invasive species but be consistent. And advocate for NOT killing native species while you are at it.

      And I would love to hear your views on slavery since they were transported here too…

      • Walter Winkenburg says:

        Marc, you just come across badly with all the swear words you are using and your harsh language and you do little to help out your cause. Everyone talking about getting rid of House Sparrows is doing so in a respectful way and talking about their desires to save native species that invasive like House Sparrows and European Starlings are driving out and killing.

        You and your pro-invasive House Sparrow gang are the ones using swear words and attacking people and calling them Hitler. You don’t do your side any good besides making people think you are wackos. The invasive talk is not bs (how come you actually edited yourself on that swear?). Intestinal bacteria is benifical to us. Invasive species are not beneficial to North American ecology and everyone knows it.

        Why even bring up slavery? It just ruins your already poor argument and just goes to show you are clinging to any attack you can make in your defense of the sparrows.

      • Rob Blye says:

        Some of the contributors to this thread must be confusing house sparrows with the many indigenous sparrows, finches and their allies that occur throughout North America. Native sparrows are nature’s blessing; houses sparrows are a curse.

        I live in rural southeastern Pennsylvania. I have not been burdened with large numbers of house sparrows until this winter. I am fearful of what they will do to the eastern bluebirds, chickadees. tree swallows and other birds that use the bird houses I provide. I am a wildlife biologist, meat eater, angler and hunter. I do not like to kill animals but I do like to eat and I also understand the havoc created by introduced non-natives animals and plants. I destroy invasive plants and I will likely control the house sparrows in some fashion including shooting them with bird shot from a .22, trapping them and dispatching them as mercifully as I can. Humans are a keystone species. We are responsible for having introduced the invasives and we are responsible for controlling them.

    • Jon C. says:

      I agree. Humans are certainly not “invasive”. Now I know there are some kids who go around with BB guns shooting every bird they see just for fun. and their are folks who clear every tree and shrub from their land to have a big lawn, on which they spray pesticides and poison the wildlife. But there are some of us who are environmentally conscious.
      Have you all ever seen a photo of a swallow or bluebird killed by a House Sparrow? They obviously suffered a lot more than a House Sparrow would if it was shot. Sure, you can repel them from your yard. They’ll go over to your neighbor’s yard,eat all his seed, and kill his bluebirds. Wherever they are, they will reduce the population of the native birds.
      Think about how higher the mosquito population would be without Tree Swallows. House Sparrows don’t eat mosquitoes.
      I know it may seem inhumane to kill them, but think about how the kill the native birds. Perhaps the best thing to do is to remove their eggs from birdhouses as soon as they’re laid. Then you don’t have to kill any live birds.

  32. LM says:

    Regarding the description of using fishing line to deter sparrows, does anyone else have any experience with that or any other ideas that will not cause harm? I am interested in ideas for coexistence: not domination or eradication.

    • LG says:

      I have a neighbor that puts out millet to feed sparrows and doves. When her feeder is empty, which happens VERY often, the sparrows come to my yard and eat everything I have in my feeders, including safflower, black oil sunflower, suet, peanut butter in a vertical hanging log feeder that has no perches (they either eat in mid-flight or cling to the sides), and mealworms. There is nothing you can put in feeders that they will not devour. After years of trying different solutions I finally decided to try attaching 50# fishing line taped to the tops of my dome feeders with fishing weights tied to the ends of the fishing line, similar to the Magic Halo (I used clear packaging tape). It is amazing!! Sparrows have not come within 20 feet of the feeders, so all of the feeders near these dome feeders are protected too.

  33. J Phelps says:

    The reality of Mother Nature/Gods creation is ruthless to our senses at times. Watching a hawk snatch and kill one of the Downy’s I’m enjoying can be sad. Killing said hawk would go against what that bird was created for.
    I understand the English Sparrows are invasive. I also understand they don’t roost at night together and scheme on how to hurt a persons feelings.
    Killing them for their natural behavior, I believe is just wrong.
    Deterring them, with passive methods, can work some and should be utilized. To be noted: you as an individual can’t kill them all. That attitude on “pest control” can result in a collective eradication of a created for a purpose species.
    Please remember why we do this. Enjoyment of the natural world.

  34. T Myers says:

    Feed your birds black oil sunflower seeds, thistle & safflower seeds (each in different feeders).
    I do not have any sparrows.
    My neighbor feeds regular seed – ie the millet kind & she has all of the sparrows.

    • Dan says:

      Unfortunately, house sparrows here eat everything. I only supply black oil sunflower, nyjer, suet, and grape jelly, and a few times I’ve swapped out sunflower in favor of safflower. House sparrows love it all. One of the big problems with HOSPs is their adaptability.

      • Have you tried taping or tying a little fishing line or jewelry-making wire to your feeders? The House sparrows are TERRIFIED of that stuff and won’t land. I just wrap a bit of wire around the hanging ropes of my hopper feeders and let it hang over the edge where they would land. They see that and are all… “Nope!” and fly away. At my house, I haven’t had one at my feeder in well over a year. Now, they only eat on the ground here.

  35. Martin says:

    I feed pure sunflower meats in tube feeders. I get a bigger variety of birds than just finches, siskins and redpolls. On the ground I scatter cracked corn, millet, milo, black sunflower etc for .cardinals, jays, tree sparrows, etc. BTW white millet is much more palatable than red millet. Red serves mainly as an accent in packaging.
    I can say for certain I have not seen more than 3 or 4 TOTAL house sparrows feeding here in 4+ years.
    Why? They get smart to the muzzle of the gun protruding out the window. Pure sunflower meats eliminate the build up of husks underneath. The birds eat virtually every gram I pay for ($50 for 50#).
    Niger costs about the same (but is half husk), is grown abroad (not a native food) and is not well “neutered” as is claimed. I have found niger thistle sprouting under feeders in spring — an introduced non-native! I have lived at 4 residences in this immediate locale over several decades. I have always practiced the feeding as described above. Combined with selective shooting I can honestly say I have made a difference.

    • Robyn G says:

      We’ve gone through a couple of phases of bird seed. At first – we used to get only pure sunflower seed – mostly from places like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Then that got pretty expensive. So then we tried the “Audubon Certified” (who knows what that means) stuff at Costco. It’s a blend that costs about $20 for a 40 pound bag. Since we switched to it – we haven’t noticed any difference in the number or variety of birds in our yard. FWIW – we go through a 40 pound bag about every 3-4 weeks. With 2 feeders. So this bird seed stuff doesn’t amount to “chump change” in terms of our budget.

      BTW – the most prolific breeders in our yard are almost certainly the cardinals. We had a relatively warm winter last year – and are having a relatively warm winter now. And I’m seeing at least my 4th – probably my 5th – generation of baby cardinals this year. Robyn

      • Dan says:

        Wow, cardinals are prolific breeders in your yard? I wish that was true here. The pair of cardinals that breed in bushes around my house every year have a terrible time raising young. This year they built three nests. The grand total of young successfully fledged from those nests?… One cowbird, ZERO cardinals. It’s that bad around here. Cowbirds are a problem, plus some creature frequently destroys their nests. The most prolific breeders here are house sparrows. They never have any trouble fledging a few to several youngsters out of each nest.

        • Robyn G says:

          I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cowbird in our yard. We seem to be at the extreme southern end of the cowbird’s “year round” habitat. So – even if cowbirds were here – they’d probably just be “passing through” or spending the winter here (times when they apparently don’t breed).

          BTW – our most common migratory bird here is the robin. We gets tons of them – but only a few days a year. Heading south for the winter – and north for the summer. Here’s a shot I captured one day:

          http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/greenliving/Spring-is-headed-this-way-and-you-can-track-it.html

          The newspaper found the picture where I first posted it – on Journey North.

          https://www.learner.org/jnorth/

          It’s an educational website about migration. Designed for kids/teachers. I’m not a kid or a teacher – but I find it informative and entertaining too. BTW – these migratory robins don’t use the feeders. They use birdbaths and hunt and peck on the ground for food – probably insects.

          In terms of attracting cardinals – here are some tips:

          http://birding.about.com/od/Specific-Birds/a/How-To-Attract-Cardinals.htm

          I guess what we have that leads them (and other birds) to breed here is a large number of trees that are leafy just about all year (like oaks) and dense shrubs like wax myrtles. IOW – lots of cover. So the nests are hidden from predators. The nests are so well hidden we don’t usually see them until our tree service comes and prunes the trees once a year (always in January so we don’t run the risk of cutting down limbs with nests that are active). I guess we’re lucky to have enough land to maintain this vegetation at a reasonable distance from the house (because you don’t want a big oak tree anywhere near a house).

  36. Robyn G says:

    I just stumbled onto this website to get some bird feeder tips. And wow – all the fuss about house sparrows. Perhaps they’re a nuisance in some places – but I don’t recall ever seeing lots of them here in NE Florida (maybe I’ve seen some – all those little brownish birds – even the baby cardinals – look alike when I’m viewing them from 30 feet away). And – even if I had – I’m not about ready to go out and strangle a little bird – even assuming I could trap it (I live in a “non-hunting” community – no guns allowed).

    In all honesty – what comes across from the “anti-sparrow” folk when I read their messages is “I only want the want the cute birds at my feeders” – not the obnoxious ones. When it comes to my feeders and other parts of my bird environment (e.g., bird baths and an acre of wooded land) – which have attracted 23 species of local and migratory birds over the decades – the obnoxious birds include hordes of red-winged black birds – and – especially – red-bellied woodpeckers. The woodpeckers go to the feeders and poke at them repeatedly – so lots of (expensive) seed winds up on the ground. Of course – it doesn’t go to waste. Ground feeders like mourning doves and squirrels take care of that.

    BTW – we have lots of native critters that probably eat birds and bird eggs (and other things too). Raccoons – squirrels – snakes – field mice – armadillos – possums – turtles – ospreys – hawks and even the occasional eagle or owl. Observing nature isn’t for the squeamish.

    The only bird predators that drive me nuts are cats. Whether “outside domestic” or feral. They’re the largest predator threat to our Florida bird populations. I live in a county/HOA that has leash laws/rules for dogs and cats. When I see a domestic cat whose owner I can identify – I tell them next time I see it on my property – I’ll take it to the pound. That seems to work. As for feral cats – I haven’t seen one in quite a while. But – next time I do – that cat will get a one way trip to the pound. For people who have roaming cat populations in their area – a “political” solution – getting laws/rules passed – is probably the best approach. And – failing that – it’s probably a good idea to take down your feeders.

  37. Marc L says:

    Do domed caged feeders have any limiting affect on the number of house sparrows?

    • John B says:

      The house finches, gold finches and cactus wrens feed freely from my caged thistle feeder. I almost never see the house sparrows or doves on it. But then again, I live a bit away from town in the desert SW. But house sparrows are here. Years ago, when I had a regular plain tube feeder too low to the ground, a roadrunner used to hunt the house sparrows specifically and very effectively. I also have Cooper’s hawks in the winter. Whenever you feed the birds, you end up feeding the whole food chain. It’s very hard to selectively feed just some parts of it. Just ask “my” hummers about the flickers and woodpeckers!

  38. Tori Morgan says:

    Maybe I have another solution if you hate house sparrows… move to the country. I don’t know if that’s what makes the difference but I live in the pine woods in the Pacific Northwest and have never seen a house sparrow here. They’re all over the town 3 miles away, though.

  39. Doodle says:

    It might be useful for this conversation to include videos of what house sparrows do to a nest of blue birds.

  40. Mary Jo Pilch says:

    I had loads of sparrows until I started putting out peanuts with the regular feed Blue Jays love peanuts and they keep the sparrows away. They don’t hurt the sparrows. Other birds don’t seem to be bothered by the jays. Still have lots of cardinals and mockingbirds.

  41. Dianemarie Yates says:

    Reading the comments on thwarting undesirable feeder visitors I wonder why birders choose to spar with one another so. When I was young I enjoyed all wildlife for its own value; now like the rest of you I stress over how to keep the robbers at bay until it’s hardly fun any more just to watch birds. I don’t walk in your shoes and you don’t walk in mine so I won’t pretend to know what works best for everybody. But I do know that while it’s human nature for each of us to think we know everything, knowledge without compassion is merely a collection of statistics. We need to forgive our differences and work as a team toward the goal of preserving a place for our beloved songbirds on this planet. A famous man (not a former president) said a house divided will surely fall. His name was Jesus Christ.

  42. Randy E says:

    Wow, I had no idea I may have been upsetting so many people by killing the vermin around my land including coyotes which the DNR lets me kill year round without a license . Not sure if this was mentioned but I kill a lot of mice every month. Anybody have a problem with that?

  43. alan rider says:

    Here is how I reduce the population of starlings, another introduced bird. I recycle them.
    I have a trap that that I can get inside of. This allows me to catch non target birds and release them outside of the trap. During winter snow events, I place garbage corn etc in the trap so starlings can see it. For whatever reason they flock into the trap during snow storms.
    I also have a pond in my backyard. I grab the starlings and make them incapable of flying or hopping away. I then put them on the ice on the pond at sunset and the owls catch and eat them. Do you know a starling held upside down makes a very loud squawking sound that will attract the owls?
    The most starlings I have recycled from a single storm is around forty. Kestrels have also recycled a few starlings..

  44. Zoyd Wheeler says:

    I was going to link to this page on my blog and FB page, but then I read the comments about killing birds and the smug, sanctimonious attitude on both sides. I don’t want my name or my business attached to this ugliness, so you’ll not be getting any clicks from me.

  45. john cronk says:

    Folks, the people trying to get rid of sparrows are not heartless monsters. I’m just as willing to let sparrows have a meal as any other bird. But they take up residence at a feeder, monopolize it and actively chase all the other birds away. No, I don’t hate them for this – it’s just the way they’re programmed by nature. But it’s counterproductive for my enjoyment of birdwatching and for my ability to feed any other birds. I have a Brome feeder that was really attracting lots of birds, and just a couple of sparrows have pretty much taken it over and excluded all the other birds, while eating the feed at an amazingly fast rate. I don’t intend to maintain a feeder in order to simply raise a family of sparrows. Yes, I could just give up, but I’d rather keep trying to find a solution to this problem, just as I did with the squirrels, which I also don’t hate and, now that they can’t attack my birdfeeders, I enjoy feeding and knowing as individuals.
    To the sanctimonious scolds on this site – try being as understanding to your fellow humans as you are to animals.

  46. Jan R. says:

    Tony Spinelli asked what the most humane way would be of disposing of the House Sparrows after trapping them. It sounds like he wishes to trap them alive, then release them in some remote area where they can’t return to his feeders. This doesn’t sound like he wishes to kill them. Perhaps the folks here have misinterpreted his intentions?

    That said, we shouldn’t be punishing introduced species simply because they have proven adaptable enough to thrive in their non-native environment. We are the ones who brought them here. The same can be said for Starlings, also non-native and now prevalent nearly everywhere in the lower 48.

    I, for one, offer a great variety of food and a diversity of different kinds and styles of feeders. We don’t have the house sparrows out here in the rural area where I live, but I have seen them in town, and if they came out here, I would live and let live.

    Just my opinion … but that’s how my heart sees it.

  47. DJ says:

    I have a new feeder, with a mix of seed — bird seed and sunflower seeds — but no apparent interest from the birds. What could be wrong? The placement is the same as one I had years ago that the birds loved. I can’t figure it out. It’s been a month or so and no takers. Thanks for any ideas.

  48. Jan R. says:

    Because it’s a new feeder, it may be taking the birds longer to find it. I suggest hanging a couple of suet cakes in cages from the branches of nearby trees to entice them. Once they find those, they’ll very likely also visit your feeder. As birds begin visiting your feeder, more and more species will be attracted to it.

    It’s also possible that you weren’t around to see birds that have been to your feeder.

    Keep watching and keep trying. If the seed blend is of good quality, fresh and dry, they’ll come, eventually.

    Good luck and happy watching and feeding.

  49. Cal Kelley says:

    I understand it is a big shock following a link to your question of how to get more birds at your feeder and stumble upon how you capture/dispose house sparrows.
    IMO, the damage people have done to native species is even more shocking. Biomes, naturally occurring communities of cooperating flora and fauna, have evolved for the benefit of both. An invasive species can ruin that balance. Look to aquatic lilies and such – fifty years ago they covered waterways, killed native plants and animals and were horrendous for boat travel and commerce. (Now they put out potent herbicides to keep them checked, a necessary evil)
    In Florida we have the Cuban tree frog which creates a slime that gums up anything they get into and is pushing out native tree frogs. Many many types of exotic lizards which have started to establish colonies and decimate bird populations (esp the tegu).
    And if you have ever been lucky enough to visit a native, secret fairy circle of redwood trees, far off a beaten path, you will often see the damage caused by non-native wild pigs that destroy these specialized nurseries for a unique tree species already high in habitat destruction. It certainly gets this non hunter riled enough to believe every day should be hog season!
    Perhaps there was a way the first posters should have explained the issue before asking their question or commenting. If only to teach and inform others who were not first shocked silly and perhaps less willing as a result.
    But, IMO, people can no longer fall back on ‘let nature handle things.’ With the destruction of habitat that took thousands if not millions of years to evolve, introduction of invasive species that can do much harm, and pesticide and herbicide poisoning (um, just remember what DDT did to raptor populations), we need to take an informed, judicious but active role in trying to help with rebalancing and repairing.

  50. Cal Kelley says:

    Btw, we did not suddenly unearth all the Palm trees and plant non native redwoods. I also live in California.

  51. With all of the manicured lawns and yards in the cities wild birds don’t have a chance of eating seeds from weeds to stay alive. If these birds are not fed, we would not see one in the city except for insect eating birds.

  52. Krsti says:

    I have a question related to the article. . . . . I would like to make a bird station. My yard is tiny and the only place I really have room is in the front yard, but I don’t have any trees to place it under for shelter. Hadn’t considered rain ruining seed and now I’ve learned that heat can turn hummer nectar really bad. The only places I have any cover are the overhangs of my house. Not ideal because my dogs go out in that area. Is this a futile attempt and waste of money?

  53. lauren says:

    So, I am totally new to the whole bird feeder thing… But my question is this: I have a family of what seem to be house sparrows that have been nesting under the overhang of my back porch for about 5 years.. I recently bought a bird feeder, but don’t know where to place it… I didn’t know that house sparrows could be aggressive to each other till reading this website.. How far away from the nest should I place it? I would hate to accidentally evict the family of birds that has been living here, because of poor placement..

    Any ideas?

  54. michele Dascenzo says:

    I feel the need to share my experience.i bought 2 pvc boxes awhile back and put them up well i had 2 sets of chickadees in both such gentle and sweet birds i made the mistake of NOT educating myself.well came home one day and both boxes had house sparrows in both boxes with dead chickadees in both boxes it is something i will never forget.now I have hole reducers on their boxes and no more problems and use van ert trap in other boxes and yes i do kill them( hosp) and before any of you pass judgement on me i tried the nice route and house sparrows were killing all our American songbirds who are fighting for survival( cavity nesters) it’s about giving our gentle song birds a fighting chance.If your going to provide them boxes then it’s only fair to them to manage your box and make them safe from birds that want to kill them i don’t kill all sparrows only ones that evict and take over my boxes.so some of you love for all people need to educate yourself on the subject.maybe their are some parolees that you can stick up for too at your local jail instead of commenting on this site.

  55. Sara Tarpley says:

    Nothing original about this comment, but some here seem to not understand that it is not just a matter of not liking house sparrows. The problem for many of us is that we would like to be able to feed other kinds of birds as well. About twenty years ago I was feeding birds and having many varieties come to my feeder. I quit because of squirrels. Recently I was thrilled to find that my expensive new feeder is truly squirrel proof as advertised. However, I soon discovered that there are now many more house sparrows in my area than there used to be. They are very aggressive and even try to drive each other away from the feeder. I have made a DIY version of the magic halo, which seems to be reducing the number of house sparrows; but I am not sure that it is not discouraging other birds as well. (Everything I have read states that it will not.) Yes, I could again quit feeding birds, but it would make me very sad. (And I have no interest in killing house sparrows.)

  56. Jessy Shaw says:

    My youngest son really loves birds and he drags me our of bed every Saturday morning to go bird watching. I have been thinking about getting some decorative bird feeders to place around our yard so that he can see them more close up. Keeping them covered is a really great tip because I think they would be more likely to stay for longer if they got some shelter as well as food.

  57. Mac Eoin Ltd says:

    Feeders should be located out of the wind. The east or southeast side of a house or near a row of trees is ideal. It is best to have a perching spot such as a bush or tree for the birds to use to survey the feeding area and provide sufficient cover for safe refuge from predators and shelter from the wind and weather. The feeders should be positioned near cover but in the open to allow birds to watch for danger. For ground feeding, an area near cover with a clear view of the surroundings is desirable. – https://www.maceoinltd.com/

  58. Virgie Hudgins says:

    You hit the nail on the head. I am sure there are many people who are faced with the same problems I recently had. I couldn’t find an online service for merging PDF files, but eventually I found a simple one. Merging files is super easy with AltoMerge. Try it on your own here http://www.altomerge.com/ and you’ll make sure how it’s simple.

  59. Ralph H says:

    SQUIRRELS: For folks asking about how to stop squirrels for reaching their feeders: I have an 8-foot pressure-treated-wood crossbar (runs horizontal) mounted on a pole with hooks for six feeders. The main pole is actually a galvanized pipe of about 1.5 inches inside diameter, standing inside a larger pipe driven 20″ into the ground, and which stands too far away for the squirrels to jump to from a tree. The secret is the standard, 4″, PVC pipe placed around it and held in place with (any sort of) mounting hardware. Just get it to stay there. And that’s it – no expensive baffler, or weight-closing feeder, or anything. Very simple. Mine’s been up 10+ years with NO squirrel ever figuring out how to beat it. The squirrels just cannot get a grip on it to climb straight up. Occasionally one tries, but all it provides to us is humor, rather than “defeating” us. Give it a try, folks!

  60. humewood says:

    I posted here farther up yesterday but I didn’t scroll down and read everyone’s comments. I recently joined the Cornell bird count project but I live in Toronto Canada so I am not sure they are interested in Canadian data.
    I am very disappointed in the many “apologia” online here in defence of killing non native species. What I have noticed at our feeders, which are hanging on the third floor balcony of our low-rise bldg in the downtown, is that most of the birds come and easily adjust to each other. The tiny goldfinches and house finches wait in the nearby tree till the sparrows, cardinals, juncos or whatever have landed and fed. They even seem to pick different times to arrive. They also land together on the tube feeder rings. I have seen finches, cardinals and sparrows on the same feeder. If I keep the feeders full and vary the contents, I seem to be able to feed everybody, not just the rarer species. In the words of the late, lamented Rodney King, “can’t we all just get along?”

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