Backyard birders across the country are familiar with house sparrows. They can be found in abundance in every state except for Alaska. They tend to visit feeders in large flocks, often taking over food sources, taking over other birds’ nests, and pushing out less aggressive birds. Seeing less of the birds you were hoping to see at your feeders? There is a good chance the house sparrow is to blame.
If you’re filling your feeders more frequently, running out for seeds more often, and failing to spot anything ‘new’ at your feeders, deterring house sparrows might be the answer. There are many suggestions floating around the internet as to how to deter these aggressive visitors. Many backyard birders suggest trying the feeder halo.
What is a Bird Feeder Halo?
Originally, the idea to use a feeder halo came from attempts to keep gulls away from landfills and reservoirs. After seeing some success with the technique, the University of Nebraska tried it in hopes of seeing the same reaction with house sparrows. The experiment proved to be a success as they saw a significant reduction in house sparrows visiting the University’s feeders. How did it work? It was concluded that house sparrows interpret the wires as a possible blockade to a rapid escape from the feeder. Even more interesting was the fact that the results were very species specific. The wires did not having the same effect on other species such as finches and cardinals.
The halo consists of a hoop device made up of a series of wires that attach to the top of a bird feeder. These wires extend past the extremities of the feeder so that birds who want to feed must pass through. Studies have proven that certain species, the house sparrow one of them, will not fly under these elongated wires. When house sparrows cannot access a food supply, they will be motivated to move on in their search for food. This in turn enables birds you desire to have better access to your feeders. This also lessens competition at the feeders. In turn, you save on seeds as there is more food for a diversity of bird species and less gets wasted. This invites species of birds that previously stayed away due to the aggressive behaviors of house sparrows.
Making a DIY Bird Feeder Halo
If you’re of the DIY mind, you might also consider making a halo baffle for your bird feeders. You can use a baffle or something as simple as a wire hanger bent in a circular shape. When purchasing wire, it is best to work with 24 gauge. Do not use fishing line as birds can become entangled and result in a life-threatening situation. Attach the wires and dangle them from the ring. It’s important that wires run from above the feeder to below the feeder so your feeder will be completely encased in the wire perimeter you’ve created. Some recommend a shiny wire, as the shinier wire’s visibility plays a part in keeping sparrows away. Weigh the wires down with small weights or fix them to the ground to prevent birds getting entangled in them. Fishing weights or common bolts from your toolbox are an ideal choice.
See also: DIY Birdseed Ornaments
The Downsides of Halos
While backyard birdwatchers have had luck using a halo, there are two reported downsides. Unfortunately, many birds passed up the feeder with a halo in favor of another feeder where they didn’t have to be as cautious in their approach. Another downside was that some reported halos being less effective over time. It seems birds learned to become comfortable with wires as time went by. Interestingly enough, juvenile sparrows were less deterred than adults as these young birds tended to be less leery of danger than the elders.
House sparrows are known for being aggressive troublemakers for other bird species. If you’re not seeing a diversity of birds at your feeders but you are spotting house sparrows more frequently, controlling their numbers with a humane technique like a halo could help turn things around. Actively working to prevent this species from coming to and taking over your feeders paves the way for you to experience a whole new view at your backyard feeders.