A pair of Chickadees raised five babies in this fishing-line protected nest box in 2002. Unfortunately the West Nile Virus wiped out the whole family.
Bird Links for General Information~
Two of our native, "true" Sparrows:
House Sparrow Solutions~
Helping Our Native Birds
Bird populations in our city backyard in Northwest Indiana are not as varied as they are only a few miles away in more wooded areas. Yet we used to have a greater variety of birds in past years. We were growing concerned when we noticed the great number of House Sparrows feeding from the bird feeders and the absence of Chickadees. So we did a little checking on the Internet.
We learned that because of the aggressive nature of House Sparrows, our smaller native birds need a helping hand. Since being introduced to the US in 1851, the English, or European House Sparrow, (actually Weaver Finches) have literally spread clear across the United States in huge numbers. Besides hogging the food supply, they also attack and kill our native Bluebirds in the nest, and not for lack of nesting areas. We were shocked to hear this, and felt that since we enjoy feeding birds, we needed to take proper action.
This involves food and nest area control. How many clutches of eggs a bird family raises each season is determined by the availability of food. Seeing the number of House Sparrows in our yard (all hatched from the eaves of our roof), we could see the relationship between their numbers and the rate at which they devour food from the feeders. Always after filling the feeders, they would empty them in one or two days, then nest and raise young profusely, as many as 3 clutches of 5 to 7 chicks each per year, per pair.
In the meantime, we noticed a remarkable drop in the number of native birds visiting our yard. Placing seed in the feeders intended to attract certain birds had no effect. The House Sparrows devoured seed that the bird books said they would not eat.
After some research on the Internet, we discovered we needed to change the FEEDERS, not just the feed, in addition to closing up the holes in the eaves where House Sparrows nest. (NOTE: if you want to put up nest boxes, use the ones made for Wrens and Chickadees which have an entrance hole too small for House Sparrows to enter. If you live where there are Bluebirds, check with the Bluebird society in your area for special nest instructions if you have intrusions from House Sparrows.)
The desired result of these actions are to naturally slow down the number of House Sparrow clutches raised per year and encourage the return of native song birds, especially tiny ones, who have a hard time competing against the non-native "bullies".
We have discovered a balance that seems to work well in our yard. We made sure to close up all the holes in the eaves the House Sparrows were using. This involved replacing the old worn ventilation wire with some new slotted material that allows the attic to "breath" but does not allow birds to enter.
Next we purchased new feeders. We already had the Satellite feeder, but it was hard to fill, so we bought the Cling-A-Wing. The picture doesn't show it, but it is twice the size as the Satellite feeder. Later we found a wire and wood "selective" feeder for only $17.
We put a mixture of different types of sunflower seeds in all of them, and out the cheaper mix of seeds on the ground.
This arrangement has allowed the tiny birds ample opportunity to feed in peace and safety while the House Sparrows feed on the ground with the Doves, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Juncos. The feeders have attracted Chickadees, Chipping Sparrows (native sparrows), Purple Finches and Gold Finches!
In addition, we are testing the use of monofilament fishing line to discourage House Sparrows from feeding in certain feeders. It seems that the House Sparrows are frightened by the nearly invisible fishing line, but for the most part, our native birds are not. So in addition to the feeders we bought, we added monofilament fishing line to one inexpensive plastic feeder. We did not add fishing line to the other identical feeder. We added the same seed to both feeders and hung them out together. Within one day, the "plain" feeder was emptied by House Sparrows. However, the "fishing-line" feeder had occasional visits from Cardinals (who were wary at first) and Purple Finches. Only one House Sparrow pair were brave enough to try it.
Once the migratory birds have finished passing through in the spring, there is no real need to continue feeding song birds as there is ample natural food available in the summer. There is, however, a great need for birds to find water, and you may attract many visitors by supplying a place for birds to drink.
We keep a thistle seed feeder (mesh bag type) for the Goldfinches and we like to keep one globe feeder up for the Chickadees. You may wish to begin feeding nectar eaters such as Hummingbirds and Orioles at this time. Hummingbirds need to eat every 15 minutes, so they must have a reliable food source. If you hang a feeder, you must maintain it, as the solution can become moldy in just two or three days. Another option is to plant flowers the hummingbirds will feed from.
For more information on planting a bird-friendly yard, you may visit the
Cornel Laboratory of Ornithology
Project Feeder Watch online.
Cornell recommends this book:
We have seen one Blue Jay on occasion. We have a few House Finches, a pair of Cardinals, Starlings and several pairs of Mourning Doves. This spring I heard some Song Sparrows, and we had quite a few Robins. We have seen a few hawks. The Redtail and Sharpshinned might be the ones we are seeing but I will need to confirm that. We have noticed Swallows flying at dusk. The Crows we saw last year are gone. I still hope for the return of some Chickadees.
September 2006 update - NW Indiana
It's now fall 2006, and it's more of the same--our problem birds are our most numerous birds. We have even more House Sparrows. Once again the Goldfinches raised a family in our yard! (See pictures of one of the baby Goldfinches). Still no Chickadees. Also, click here to see pictures of a migrating bird sitting on my hand, which happened May 22, 2004.
June 2012 update - NW Indiana
My yard is a cacophony of invasive non-native bully House "Sparrows", or, if you live in the city, all the little brown birds you see flying in flocks and chattering and fighting endlessly for nesting space in any nook or hole they can find. That's about it. Our BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN NATIVE birds have given up competing with these little brown aggressive pests and have left for other areas (away from the city) where the House "Sparrows" are not so numerous.
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