4 Proven Ways to Attract (NATIVE) Sparrows To Feeders!
At first glance, some people find it hard to appreciate sparrows.
In fact, many bird watchers lump all the species together and simply call them “LBBs,” which stands for little brown birds!
But take a closer look, and you will be amazed at the beautiful colors and diversity that appear. I’m confident that the more you learn, the more you will want to attract sparrows to your feeders! My favorite is the White-throated Sparrow, with its stunning white and yellow head.
Before we begin, let me give a disclaimer about this article:
We won’t be discussing how to attract HOUSE SPARROWS!
These invasive birds will show up at your feeding station no matter what you do. 🙂
Today, we are focusing only on attracting sparrow species NATIVE to North America.
#1. Attract sparrows with foods they love!
The BEST way to attract sparrows to your yard is to make sure they can find their favorite foods when they visit.
So what do sparrows like to eat?
In general, these birds are granivorous, which means they eat a variety of seeds and grains, especially in winter. Luckily, many commonly available feeder foods are PERFECT for sparrows!
Here are the best THREE foods for attracting sparrows:
A. Sunflower Seeds:
Nutrition Information: 40% fat, 16% protein, 20% carbohydrates
Sparrows LOVE eating sunflower seeds, but they seem to like them best when already shelled. While they can crack open the thin shells of black-oil sunflower seeds, I have found they prefer to eat them with the husks already taken off. Don’t even think about using striped sunflower seeds, as these shells are WAY too thick for sparrows.
One of the BEST parts about sunflower seeds is that they attract the widest amount of birds versus any other food. Seriously, you can expect cardinals, jays, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, finches, nutcrackers, juncos, blackbirds, doves, and grackles, in addition to sparrows!
B. Cracked Corn
Nutrition Information: 5% fat, 9% protein, 74% carbohydrates
Cracked corn is whole-kernel corn that has been chopped up. Many birds cannot eat whole kernel corn because it’s too big, but lots of birds, such as sparrows, like eating cracked corn.
The best part about cracked corn is its INEXPENSIVE price! This grain is commonly used in birdseed mixes to help get the bag’s price lower.
C. White Proso Millet
Nutrition Info: 4% fat, 11% protein, 73% carbohydrates
Millet is a favorite food among ground-feeding birds, like sparrows. It is generally not sold individually but is included in many birdseed mixes.
There are a few different types of millet, but the best one is white proso millet, which is a small round starchy grain.
A word of warning: Many birdseed mixes also contain RED proso millet, which is red and smaller than white millet. Sparrows will eat red millet, but it’s not their favorite. So, if possible, I would try to avoid buying a mix that includes red millet.
#2. Buy bird feeders that sparrows will actually use!
So far, we have learned the types of foods that attract sparrows. But native sparrows are a bit picky about where and how they feed. So if you want to see these birds, you need to use feeders that appeal to them.
In general, sparrows prefer feeding on or very near the ground.
In addition, they like open areas when eating, so trays and platform feeders tend to work the best.
Here is my favorite bird feeder for attracting sparrows:
Woodlink Tray Bird Feeder
Click PLAY below to see this feeder LIVE on the ground in my backyard! You may see a SPARROW right now. (Learn more about my live bird cams HERE)
This feeder is an excellent, multi-purpose tray. I love that it can be used in three ways; on the ground, hung in the air, or mounted to a pole.
To attract sparrows, the BEST place to put the tray is right on the ground. This location is where they feel the most comfortable eating as they forage. Just spread a mixture of sunflower seeds, white proso millet, and cracked corn inside and watch the sparrows come! 🙂
I also have this feeder mounted to my pole, which gives birds a large area to land and feed!
- The metal screen bottom provides excellent drainage. So your food will never be sitting in standing water. The screen bottom is also removable and slides right out. This feature makes it easy to clean!
- My only complaint with this tray feeder is its durability. It’s made from wood, and the screws that connect the fold-out legs tend to get loose after a year or two and need replacing.
Putting food directly on the ground also attracts sparrows!
If you don’t want to spend additional money on another bird feeder, it’s not a necessity for sparrows. Instead, just throw a handful of their favorite foods directly on the ground. Honestly, this is probably where they feel the most comfortable eating anyway.
The main benefit of using a ground feeder is that the food stays fresher longer since it’s not lying on the ground.
#3. Attract SPARROWS by providing water!
Another way to get sparrows to visit your yard is to provide a constant, consistent water source. Sparrows not only will use it to keep hydrated but also to bathe and stay clean. Unless you are lucky enough to have a stream or lake nearby, the best way to offer water is to buy a bird bath.
When it comes to attracting sparrows, you will want to find a GROUND BIRD BATH. As we have already discussed, sparrows feel most comfortable on the ground.
Here is the bath I use in my yard for sparrows (and other birds):
JCS Wildlife Poly Lumber Birdbath
Compare the prices of this birdbath!
- JCS Wildlife *Use code BWHQ at checkout to receive 10% off!*
First, I like that this ground bath is made from recycled poly lumber. This material is incredibly durable. I have owned this product for a few years now, and there has been no fading, splitting, or cracking of the material.
The height of the bath is roughly 6 inches (15 cm) off the ground, so it’s easily accessible for sparrows and many other animals. Even newborn ducklings have been observed jumping up and going for a swim!
I leave this birdbath in my yard all year round. During the winter, I place a deicer into the water to prevent freezing. Since the water is only 2 inches (5 cm) deep, it freezes extremely fast, as you can imagine.
Lastly, I wanted to mention that the plastic pan is not attached to the poly lumber. So this makes cleaning the pan extremely easy! Almost every time I refill the bath with water, I remove the pan and dump out the debris that the birds managed to spill into the water.
#4. Give sparrows plenty of places to hide.
Most native sparrow species are pretty skittish. At the first sign of trouble, they retreat back to a safe hiding place.
So if you put your bird feeding station in the middle of a barren yard, it’s going to be hard to attract sparrows. They are not going to feel comfortable!
The more shelter and shrubbery you can provide, the safer you will make sparrows feel. I have my feeding station next to a brushy forest area, and it’s amazing how you can’t even see the sparrows coming. They just seem to magically appear out of the woods for a few moments to grab some food, then head back to safety.
Here are some tips to help make your yard more appealing to sparrows!
- Plant shrubby evergreens: These plants are great for almost every bird species. They provide great shelter all year round and safety from predators.
- Plant a native perennial flower garden: Dedicating a portion of your yard to native flowers serves many purposes. The dead plants provide shelter through the winter (don’t cut them down until spring), but they also produce many seeds that sparrows can eat! Some of my favorite flowers include coneflowers, bee balm, milkweed, black-eyed Susans, and daisies.
- Make a brush pile: Piling up all the branches and sticks from your yard is excellent for wildlife. Sparrows will appreciate the hiding places and shelter it provides on cold, windy nights. Insects also thrive with brush piles, which provide food for sparrows during warmer months.
- Keep your weeds! Sparrows LOVE eating weed seeds. Their favorites include dandelions, chickweed, crabgrass, ragweed, and many more. They would appreciate it if you didn’t treat your lawn for weeds. 🙂
Just remember, there is nothing less appealing for wildlife than a barren grass lawn. The more native flowers, shrubs, and trees you can include, the better!
And don’t forget to put your bird feeders CLOSE to an area in your yard with natural hiding places. Make sure there is plenty of room ON THE GROUND for sparrows to forage and feed too.
Do you have any additional tips for attracting sparrows?
Today, I provided multiple strategies you can use to attract these underrated birds to your yard. We talked about the best foods and feeders, along with ways to make the surrounding habitat appealing.
I’d love to know what strategies have worked best for you?
Please leave a comment below, along with the specific sparrow species you have been able to attract!
I love sparrow and hope that sparrows will come too my yard
Fun fact, Scott… You know how there are two color varieties of white throated sparrows? The tan stripes and the white stripes? Well, typically, when they mate, they pair with the opposite color variation. Ornithologists believe this may be because the white stripe ones tend to be sassier and play the field while the tan stripe ones are sweeter and more in line with a monogamous lifestyle. Bird drama! 😂 I love the white throated sparrows too and thought I’d share, because it amuses me so much!
Hello….I enjoy learning from your articles being very amateur!! I tried the past several years various ways to set up feeders. My final place, pole with one feeder is set up on my deck facing my kitchen. I’ve had several feeders then decided one was enough. It is filled and refilled with black oil sunflower seeds. I have a birthbath and two water pans. Recently put a clay pot under the table filled with the same seeds. Birds love it!The one feeder is squirrel proof which works. The seeds fall onto the deck floor making it accessible for other birds and squirrels. It is an enjoyable entertaining sight while I sit to eat my breakfast,lunch and dinner. Within distance from my yard are thick woods and a creek ,a paradise for all creatures!
I love this article, Scott! Thank you for bringing attention to the fact there are so many species of sparrows to be on the lookout for! With exception to the house sparrow and the Eurasian tree sparrow (the latter not being featured in the link) all others are native and a treat to see and hear in the backyard. You’ve indicated you’re not telling us how to attract the unwanted house sparrow. But house sparrows love the same things we offer to the underappreciated, desirable native sparrows, no? I love the song of the white throated sparrow, so recognizably beautiful. As you mentioned, these native birds are too often and unfortunately generalized as just sparrows along with the undesirable house sparrow. So, unfairly the native sparrows get a bad rap!! Little brown birds? D: So wrong that is!! Like the house sparrow, Eurasian tree sparrows are not native to North America and are prevalent where I live in St Louis. Although they’re seemingly not as aggressive and better tolerated than the dreaded house sparrow, my feeders are all inundated with them! They were introduced to St Louis in 1870 and haven’t migrated too far from this area. With certainty, I’d be seeing gold finch more often than the occasional showing and other desirable species if I had not as many Eurasian tree sparrows. They’re identified as having brown heads and prominent black dots on either side of their beaks, under the eyes. They too eat nijer/thistle seed and safflower, all the offerings you’ve mentioned in this fun article! And they readily snack from the small openings of my finch feeders which, as you know, are intended for the gold finch. With certainty, their large numbers are squeezing out the natives I’d like to see more of. Can you give advice as to how to dissuade them from visiting my feeders?