Do you have a suet feeder that is being taken over by invasive birds such as House Sparrows (HOSP)? Do you watch helplessly as your feed disappears and the desirable birds get chased away? If you are interested in learning how to keep House Sparrows off suet feeders, please read further!
Wire hanging suet feeder
Cover for suet feeder (I used a plastic flower pot)
Earlier this Spring I realized that I was not attracting as many birds to my yard as previous years. I waited and watched, but became a frustrated looking at the bird bath and feeders sit vacant. I usually get Downey Woodpeckers at my suet feeders, so as an attempt to bring ANY birds back, I put out my suet feeder early. This was something I had usually only put up in the fall and winter because I thought suet would melt, but recently learned that you could use certain types of suet all year.
I hung the suet feeder out on the chain-link-fence of our dog’s kennel and waited for my Woodpeckers to arrive. What happened next shocked me. Within a few days I had birds – LOTS of birds. Lots and lots of House Sparrows to be more specific.
At first I didn’t mind. I wasn’t familiar with how much of a nuisance House Sparrows can be and I also felt like other species of birds followed … but I quickly learned how bad it can get!
Within hours the sparrows could devour the entire suet cake. I started to wonder if I would need to make my own suet to afford feeding the birds, but I could see that feeding them was only making the problem worse. It quickly became a mission to deter Sparrows from consuming everything within their reach and bullying the more desirable birds.
After a bit of research, I learned that I had to make two adjustments to discourage the House Sparrows.
Keep House Sparrows Off Suet Feeders
1. Remove the Suet Feeder from the Fence
Sparrows approach landing on feeders from the top. If you watch them, you will notice that they will try to avoid coming up from the bottom. By putting the feeder on the fence, it not only allowed them to approach the suet feeder from the top, but also encouraged them to all flock together on the fence and over-take the suet cake. (Some suggest using Feeder Halos, but I felt it would lose its effect over time, and could harm birds in the process.)
I removed the feeder from the fence and hung it under the overhang of my house. It also had to be far enough away that they could not jump to it from another perch. The results were noticeable! The flocks were gone and most sparrows did not attempt to land on it. While I noticed some daring ones, they were few … for a few days.
They learn… They adapt… They eat a lot of suet!
After a few days, the numbers of sparrows were not as high as when it was hanging on the fence, but this was not an acceptable solution on its own. I had to make another adjustment.
2. Cover the top of the suet feeder
Sparrows cannot hang upside down to eat, but song birds such as the Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Chickadees are very comfortable hanging while eating. Covering the top portion keeps sparrows from being able to reach the suet.
I noticed that there are a few models of covered suet feeders for sale, but before I invested I wanted to make sure this technique would work.
I simply took the square feeder that was hanging vertically and moved the chain to hang it horizontally. (fig 1) I had a plastic flower pot that fit the top, so I covered the top portion and left the bottom exposed.
I tried to hang it back on the fence (as seen in the top image), but the sparrows perched below the feeder and were able to eat the suet. I put the feeder back up under the overhang.
These steps combined made all the difference. I have had this up the entire summer and fall, and the sparrows have all but given up! While the sparrows are gone, I have the more desirable birds visiting and feeding comfortably at the suet feeder. I am able to enjoy my birds without going broke in the process!
If you would like to keep House Sparrows off suet feeders, try these tips together.
Hang the feeder under an overhang to discourage top landing
Cover the top of the feeder to only allow birds that can hang upside down to feed
Enjoy your backyard birds!
Do you have any other suggestions to keep sparrows off your feeders? Please share in the comments below.