Last winter while I was visiting my sister in the Haute Savoie, I had been looking forward to watching a gathering of European birds dining at her feeders. Instead I was disappointed to find she was feeding an army of house sparrows (Passer domesticus) who were keeping all the finches and tits from sharing the supplies. Towards the end of my stay I happened on a bit of a solution. It appeared that hanging wires from the top of the feeders discouraged the house sparrows from alighting, while not affecting other birds. We outfitted the feeders with wires and sure enough, most of the house sparrows lined up on the nearby branches while making occasional fly-bys at the feeders. Talk about some frustrated and confused sparrows! It only took about a day for the Great Tits and Blue Tits and a couple of nuthatches to start dropping by, and when I left to return home other birds were starting to show up. A couple of the sparrows had figured things out and were getting to the feeders, but didn’t stay on them as long.
Cut to last week when I arrived for a second visit…now there were Greenfinches and Goldfinches pigging out on the feeders, but more of the sparrows had also learned how to fly under the wires — a little adjustment to the wire positioning reduced their numbers once again. The biggest change however was in the sparrows who had mastered the trick of feeding from the solid column of seed — by hovering like hummingbirds and grabbing seeds on the wing. We’ve dubbed them “humming sparrows”! 😊 No wonder they’re so successful wherever they are in the world!