Variety has disappeared

I've gone from a great variety of birds in my garden to only sparrows and wondered if there was anything I could do to bring the variety back? I think it started because the sparrows nested in the garden and have now crowded the other birds out. There's now about 30 of them devouring everything I put out and taking up every port on the feeders so no others get a look in. The irritating bit is that they seem to be really fussy eaters and throw most of the seed on the floor!

I did spot a goldfinch once and rushed out the shop to buy a nijer seed feeder but he never came back. I've now removed it again because it was still full two months later...

Will it be winter before the tits, robins et al return or am I stuck with the messy sparrows chucking seed into the flower beds? (don't worry I'll carry on feeding them!)

  • Hi Simon
    This time of the year is a quiet period for many of us with there being plenty of natural food about and the birds are moulting after the breeding season.
    A lot of us never have much success with Niger seed and use Sunflower Hearts.

    My Flickr photos

  • It's definitely a case of the sparrows crowding out the other birds. I just went out to refill all the feeders and the sparrows flew away and afterwards there were two great tits, a blue tit and a robin as the first visitors. Eventually though the sparrows will return and eat everything!

    Anyone familiar with Big Easy feeders? I have the large 6 port one and they empty it in less than 24 hours!
  • What food have you got out?, for the Tits you could try a feeder with Black Sunflower seeds in it, and for the Robins try a ground feeder or sprinkle something like suet pellets under any shrubs if you have any.
    To stop any spillage try attaching trays to your feeder if you can.

    My Flickr photos

  • Afternoon simonali. We, like you, have a lot of sparrows, but they coexist with Robins, Wrens, Great, Blue, Marsh, and Crested tits, Nuthatches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Song thrushes, Blackbirds, Greenfinches, woodpeckers, Black redstarts...

    And between the sparrows and the Red squirrels, we can see a Big Easy emptied in just a few hours, so I can see your problem.

    Perhaps Alan's onto something? Different food and different feeding areas? For twelve years until we moved recently, suspended platorms under feeders, including the Big Easy, caught a lot of spillage and kept our birdlife pretty diverse. Including sparrows, of course.

    We never, by the way, saw a Goldfinch on our niger seed feeder (which we left behind when we moved...).

    All the best -
  • Agree with everything said above. Now the weather has stabilised a bit, at least in southern England there is lots of natural food and most birds have fledged.

    I also had trouble with spillage and whilst you will always have some trays and good quality mixed seed will go a long way to cutting this down. Sparrows are messy eaters. I've currently got the RSPB feeders and the Gardman heave duty ones, both can have trays fitted. Worth noting that both wood pidgeons and collard doves can perch on these to feed,

    I don't get the variety that Dave does (very jealous by the way) but the sparrows, goldfinches and assorted tits seem to get along fine. I have experimented a bit with where certain feeders and types of food are in relation to each other with some success.

    I tend to find (and it seems to be starting earlier this year) that murmurations of starlings tend to dominate everything when they arrive. I've now put out some secondary feeders with cages to combat this. possibly try more but smaller feeders?

    As with the others niger is barley touched unless nothing is on offer, sunflower hearts are eaten by most things but the goldfinches love them. You will also have less mess with hearts as opposed to seeds.
  • I've tried just sunflower hearts and they just get left until literally everything else is gone. I've avoided seed trays because we do get the occasional wood pigeon and they will just eat until they can barely walk, let alone fly.

    I watched this morning and reckon there are around 50 sparrows in the garden and I think they all live here as they're nearly all young ones. I've read they're in decline but not in my garden!

    I'll try the black sunflowers again but haven't had much success in the past and just use a seed mix.

  • House sparrows aren't in decline. The long term trend is down. But, in rural, village type areas, they have been booming due to 24x7x365 feeding and available next sites. Even in areas where there was ongoing decline, that has slowed. Their numbers will never recover to the 1970s level. Gardens have gone from huge swathes of their former strongholds, never to return. But, figures for the last few years do not, as far as I am aware, show any national decline.

  • I'll partially correct myself this morning. This is the actual trend broken down.

    BTO House sparrow trend

    I think TJ may have posted similar fairly recently?

    It shows in UK since about 2000, the UK population has been pretty consistent, and infact, between 2006-2016 it's shown an insignificant little increase.

    As prev, although important to remember past populations, it's also important to keep things in context and also take into account more recent trends. We are never going to see 1970's and 1980's levels with species that co-exist with humans. Things have moved on. Same as it's a waste of time comparing O Levels with GCSE's.   

    As well as "population changes in detail", the "population trends by habitat" is very informative. e.g. where I live fits in with the three biggest towers of increase between 1995-2011 so I'm not just imagining seeing more sparrows in my lifetime now compared to previous years.

  • Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, it doesn't go into much detail, or give specifics. Reporting rates down when and compared to when? I'm sure BTO will, or already have, go into more detail......