I have a fly-through bowl feeder just outside our den window, primarily to entertain Foster, our parakeet. Foster chirps and tweets and hops from bar to bar in her cage when the various birds fly in and out for a bit of seed. Something that got my attention, however, was that the house sparrows dominated other birds of that size, most notably my bluebirds. I didn’t realize how aggressive house sparrows can be. The Game Department describes them as an invasive species.
The house sparrows are actually a threat to native songbirds. They were first imported to the United States in the 19th century, and because they do not migrate, they are vigorous competitors for food and nesting sites. In addition to stealing nesting sites from the native birds, they are also known to destroy the eggs of other species, kill the nestlings and sometimes kill other females on the nest. They are not very friendly neighbors.
The biologists suggest that we destroy house sparrow nests when possible. They also recommend keeping the hole entrances to bird houses small – from 1 to 11/4 inches in diameter to keep house sparrows from nesting.
We have two main species of sparrows, the song sparrows (not invasive) and the house sparrows, which visit that our yard. The house sparrows are a bit chunkier, fuller in the chest, with a larger, rounded head, shorter tail, and stouter bill than most American sparrows. The males have gray heads, white cheeks, a prominent black bib, and rufous necks. Females are a plain, buffy-brown overall with dingy, gray-brown underparts. Their backs are noticeably striped with buff, black, and brown.
The native song sparrows are rich, russet-and-gray birds with bold streaks down their white chests.
The Game Department notes that house sparrows don’t like black oil sunflower seeds, but many native birds do. Grains like milo, millet, or cracked corn will attract house sparrows. If you find a house sparrow building a nest, you can remove their nesting materials every few days to discourage them.