seeds for sparrows

hi i've been feeding my garden birds for about 3 years and i'm pleased to report a steady rise in sparrow numbers when i do the spring survey. i have 3 feeders and they are clung onto by everything from doves, tits, sparrows, starlings, crows, robins, dunnocks, green finches and squirrels.

i've been trying to help the sparrows out due to their declining numbers, but it seems whichever type of seed mix i buy, they want to pick out specific seeds and ditch half the rest all over the floor. this seems to be worse now i've bought them some johnston and jeff premium which is wheat and husk free and full of small seeds. it just seems like if they have a favourite type of seed in the feeder they will prefer to rummage for them regardless of all the other small seeds. I can't tell what they're picking out of this mix but they used to pick the hemp out of another old mix. this premium mix contains: 

Canary Seed, Natural Groats, Milo, Millet, Wild Seeds, Suet Pellets, Sunflower Hearts, Sorghum, Rapeseed, Peanut Nibs, Aniseed

has anyone else found this problem? does anyone feed them single seeds and if so which type? i've no idea what they would eat in the wild?

appreciate any help thanks


  • Hi L,


    White Sunflower Hearts are all i feed.They are fantastic and all the birds love them  as well as the gorgeous Sparrow.

    We had such a bad winter and so much snow we lost many Sparrows here and i am so pleased to report i have now several babies all flying around now and feeding from the hearts with vigour.Oh, no mess or waste either. After over 30 years of feeding lots of variety for me  it is the best food ever.



    An optimist sees the beauty of the complete rose.A pessimist sees only the thorn .

  • Hi lovelylowlife,

    glad to hear that you are giving the Sparrows a helping hand.  They really need it, in my opinion :o)

    I have quite a large colony here, which now with this year's chicks I should imagine has hit 40 birds (although they're not easy to count!) and they have their own corner of the garden with feeders.  I have been feeding my Sparrows the RSPB no mess sunflower mix and they eat all of it, there's no mess and no waste and they drain their feeders every day.

  • In reply to Paul E:

    Hi Lovelylowlife, and welcome to the forum,

    I'm delighted to find another sparrow lover. Paul (above post) and I have lots of discussions about our sparrows, and like him, I must have about 40 living in the garden all day. I agree, they love sunflower hearts and I buy sunflower heart chips, which all my birds love. I also make my own mix of sunflower hearts, a general seed mix, peanut granules, and sundrops (suet coated sunflower hearts). The sparrows love this mix and I don't get much mess. What does get dropped either sprouts or gets eaten by the ground feeding birds. My sparrows also love fat balls at the moment. Paul and I find them quite faddy little critters, and they seem to "go off" things from time to time.

    Cheers, Linda.

    See my photos on Flickr

  • In reply to Sparrow:

    hi thanks for the replies. i think i have about 26 now, not that they nest here as i only have a small garden. i find the males the pickiest eaters. perhaps the females being less dominant want to spend as little time at the feeder as possible and just eat everything in front of them. maybe i'll sift out some of the hearts and put them in the single feeder, should stop some of the seed chucking. as you say the pigeons always come and hoover up anyway but i really want to help the sparrows primarily. they all nest in the bushes in somebody's front garden over the road fom me as you can here them at brood time making a racket. i do use fatballs also but the sparrows take no notice unless i crumble them and chuck them amongst the plants. wow those sundrops sound good, where did you get those from?



  • In reply to lovelylowlife:


    26 is a wonderful number, and I hope it increases next year. Mine don't nest in my garden but I have conifer hedging and this is where they live during the day, hopping out to feed or take a bath. The chattering is lovely to hear all day. At the moment it is the young ones who are feeding themselves up more than the adults. Mine nest in a colony under the eaves of a house at the back of me. I see them going in and out, but these people don't feed their birds, so they all come down to my garden. Fat balls have suddenly become popular this spring. Last summer they just went mouldy as nothing touched them. I get the Sundrops from Jacobi-Jayne. This is a mail order company with highest quality food, but sadly not cheap.

    Another forum member, (Woodpecker) also uses them and finds she gets nuthatches eating them.

    I look forward to hearing more from you about your sparrows and your other garden birds.

    Cheers, Linda.

    See my photos on Flickr

  • In reply to Sparrow:

    Thank you Sparrow for mentioning their fussy habits, I forgot to mention it!

    They can be incredibly picky in what they eat, which I see you've already mentioned.  I found my Sparrows wouldn't eat normal suet balls, just the RSPB buggy ones - which I did stop for a couple of weeks as the 16 a day they were eating was getting expensive!

    My advice is, once you've found something they like, stick with it.  By all means introduce something new to them slowly, but I've found them quite untrusting and they don't seem to like change - I bought them a new feeder and I think it was 5 weeks before they touched it!

    Its great news that you have 26 Sparrows (it is a great number) and highly commendable that you want to help them.  And please do share your House Sparrow stories with us, we love to hear about them :o)

  • In reply to Paul E:

    well i've been trying various single seeds picked out from the premium mix i have, the white dari and canary seeds but they don't seem overly interested in them individually.  i even put some mixed canary seed in a feeder but they don't touch it.  the chaffinch has the restaurant to itself.  maybe they're like us and like a bit of what we fancy. 

    i tried reducing the dropped seed problem by getting a mini seed silo (gardman) which is too small for the crow and doves to hang on to, but it seems predisposed to seed spill on it's own.  the gaps for the seed to come out are quite large for small seeds so i've even more dropped seed than before.

    think i'm going to go back to a husk free mix without suet pellets, to try and reduce bird sifting of seed, and i'll feed suet by hand on the ground or in balls.   i'd initially said they sparrows didn't eat my fatballs which i halved and put on a bench and on the bird table. however when i crumbed them and scattered the bits into my borders they were happy to scavenge. i've also tied a hanging basket (the wire cage) face-on to the hedge and put fat balls in there and the sparrows happily get inside and feed safely.  I'm trying to get them to nest in there although i'm not sure they will with so much feed and other bird movement about.  has anyone else got them nesting in a feeding garden?



  • In reply to lovelylowlife:

    My aunt has a colony of house sparrows at the side of her house under the eves, they've had a few broods this year.  They aren't far from the feeders at all, which they seem to find rather handy having breakfast on their doorstep!  You can buy nest boxes for house sparrows to place under the eves to try and encourage them to nest.

    I had the same problem with seeds being discarded by the birds so I started feeding just straight seeds - sunflower hearts, black sunflower feeds, niger seed and fruit which was spread on the ground.  I personally found that a lot of what was in mixed seeds was just left in favour of the more preferred seeds and by feeding straight seeds there was a lot less waste.

    Millie & Fly the Border Collies

  • In reply to KatTai:


    well i've tried just about all the different types of quality bird seed and it must be said it seems the more small seeds the more the sparrows chuck them out, even the pigeons and doves don't think they're worth bothering with on the ground.  millets's, plain canary and red dari all seem to get left.  i've tried johnston and jeff premium, junglegold feeder perfection and now colonels supreme husk free, and they're all good premium mixes but leave way too much mess on the ground. it's ok in the summer when you can hoover them up but they'd rot in winter.  not to mention the cost i'm putting in the bin. the bag of meadow seeds i'd bought especially for the sparrows went untouched too lol.

    you can buy 1kg and upwards bags of various single seeds on junglegold but it's quite expensive with postage, and you never really know what to put in and leave out. i definately want to help the sparrows but not by leaving the few finches without food.  there seems to be a chaffinch and a greenfinch going round with our sparrow flock, not sure if that means they are having disease problems. in previous years they've always been in pairs. will have to try and save up for sunflower hearts i guess as atleast there is no mess at all with these.

    any idea when autumnwatch starts?


  • In reply to lovelylowlife:

    lovelylowlife said:

    any idea when autumnwatch starts?


    Ah, I can help you there, it's BBC TWO on Thursdays from 7th October at 8.30pm to 9.30pm, immediately followed by Autumnwatch Unsprung (hoorah!) every Thursday from 9.30pm to 10pm. Once a week for eight weeks


    Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.