Any experience with House Sparrows?

Hi all,

For a bit of backstory, I’ve been feeding and watching birds in my garden (North London) for over a year now.

I use 2 products from Roamwild (tube and window feeder) who specialise in squirrel/large bird proof feeders. The window feeder is rarely used by blue tits. So, most of the use is at the tube feeder and so far, it’s attracted blue, coal & great tits as well as the occasional robin. Dunnocks and wood pigeons are always on standby to clear up any spillage.

This past week house sparrows have found my feeder. A few male, a few female and some youngsters it seems (~6 in total and always in a group). I was surprised to see that these were classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 5: the Red List for Birds (2021).

I put out some coconut shell suets last year that attracted some Starlings and the House Sparrows’ behaviour is very similar. To their disappointment, Starlings are too big to use my tube bird feeder, but House Sparrows are small and light enough to use it. They travel in packs, they’re aggressive around the feeder, eat constantly throughout the day and hence have emptied the feeder within a few days.

Compared to what I see from my usual visitors, this is the total opposite behaviour! It seems their presence has also deterred my usual visitors which is a shame.

I will continue topping up my feeder of course, but I was wondering is this seasonal behaviour or is this group likely to stay for the long term now? I imagine they’re nesting in a nearby park. I’ve never seen them before until this week and have also reported the sighting using the BTO app.

From my research it seems the House Sparrows are sometimes considered pests along with Starlings. I’m not opposed to feeding them but was just curious whether this was common and likely to be the start of a new pattern. 

I should also add that I've noticed they often take seeds away in their beaks, presumably for chicks in a nearby nest.

All in all since they spend a large amount of time at the feeder as well as in my garden it’s allowed me to bird watch a lot more than I was able to before.

I look forward to reading your thoughts!

  • I have been reading of the general scarcity of house sparrows in London so it seems that you are lucky they have found you ... you could keep their feeding under control by putting out daily an amount you can afford, there is always natural food available to them ... I started feeding way back in 2010 during the winter to aid sparrow population and it took three weeks for them to find my garden, I had a large Pyracantha bush which afforded them cover from predators and the flock grew to about 30 to 40 per day but Starlings & Blackbirds and various other small varieties joined in!  Was always pleased to see the youngsters every year!  Hope you continue to enjoy your birds!

     

     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • Hi Wendy, thank you for your response! I am happy to put out as much seed as needed for the house sparrows. The amount they're eating doesn't stack up with the half/third of their weight rule of thumb so I imagine it's being fed to some chicks too which is good. I've also spotted feathers etc in some beaks as they come and go so there's definitely some form of nesting going on. I'm happy to continue feeding to encourage all of this especially given their conservation status.

    30-40 per day is quite some number! Was that flock present throughout the year or only during certain seasons? I'm curious how long this current group will hang around. Or if the chicks that leave the nest will be shown this food source and a dependency will grow, I'm not sure!

    Unrelated but greenfinches have found my feeder in the past few days. They're also on the red list, must be my lucky week!

  • Certainly lucky to have Greenfinches visiting, I never had those!  The sparrow flock was pretty much constant throughout Autumn/Winter just a bit fragmented during nesting season which for them is quite protracted ... living in a chalk quarry was also privileged to be able to watch them flying from the feeders over the house to their nesting places in little holes in the chalk face, such a lot of activity and then they'd bring their young to the feeders, lots of bathing in the waterfall!

     

     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • Sounds amazing and must have been a very enjoyable watch! Thanks for your input on this it's definitely given me perspective on their behaviour.

    I have ~10kgs of feed so I'll continue topping up regularly throughout the summer and keep an eye on the sparrows' behaviour.

  • Do keep us updated?

     

     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • I will do! I'm very curious how long the house sparrows and greenfinches will keep visiting so I'll keep a close eye.

    I feel privileged to be helping 2 red listed birds in the London area! It also highlights the importance of parks for biodiversity, there is one very close to me.

  • Hi Wendy, I've noticed that the House Sparrows are taking food to a nearby tree and feeding their young there. It's my first time seeing this type of behaviour since I started birdwatching so I'm delighted!

    I want to put a suet bird feeder up too but I may wait until autumn when the temperatures start to drop.

  • Always good to see fledgling sparrows being fed by adults, they have this endearing wing waggle, is only for a couple of days though, they have to learn quickly to feed themselves!  You may yet see fledgling Robins and Dunnocks on the ground, incredibly cute babies!  Suet is always appreciated by the birds as Autumn starts to cool and through the Winter up until nesting time once more!

     

     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr