One day we were sitting at the window. A flock of sparrows came and ate all the seeds we put at the feeder for our pigeons. We were extremely annoyed with the sparrows. After a while, a question came into our minds, what do sparrows eat?
We did a little research on the topic and found out exclusive information about feeding sparrows. Sparrows primarily eat livestock feed, including cracked corn, cereal grains, oats, wheat, rice, and dried insects. These birds also feed on chopped fruits and berries in winter when regular food sources are scarce. They even feast on human food and kitchen leftovers.
Apart from that, sparrows can eat vegetables and plants that you may not know before today. In this article, we’re going to talk all about feeding different types of sparrows. You can also read our articles on how to befriend sparrows or how to prevent them.
Common Diet of Sparrows
Like many songbirds, sparrows are omnivorous, which means that they can eat both animals and plants. These predominantly vegetarian birds usually forage for foods on the ground. This doesn’t mean they don’t use feeders. Let’s see the list of sparrows’ common diet.
Sparrows mainly feed on grains, including soybeans, rice, white millet, red millet, wheat, oats, barley, cracked corn, sorghum, white proso milo, and more. Thanks to their small beaks, they prefer eating medium-sized cracked corn.
You can feed your garden sparrows with these grains from your kitchen. If you don’t have any in your house, we recommend feeding the sparrows the Organic Super Grains Blend from Amazon that will ship it to your door after a couple of days you’ve ordered it.
Sparrows consume many plant and grass seeds scattered on the ground. They include striped sunflower seeds, shelled safflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, canary seeds, nyjer, and hard-shelled seeds (by some native sparrows).
If you’re willing to feed sparrows, offer them some fresh seeds from nature. However, we recommend you feed your garden sparrows the Lyric Sunflower Kernels from Amazon. This package doesn’t contain any shell. So, it’s 100% edible for sparrows.
Another favorite food for sparrows is a wide variety of nuts, including peanuts, almonds, beechnuts, Brazil nuts, hickory nuts, and more. These nuts are rich in protein and oil, good for sparrows’ health. Since they have small beaks, unshelled nuts can make choking hazards.
If you want to feed them some nuts, make sure to crash them or hang them in feeders. Sparrows will crush them by themselves while eating. You can buy Lyric Peanut Pieces from Amazon. Don’t provide them with salted peanuts, which will be bad for their health.
As an occasional diet, sparrows eat fruits by pecking. They usually consume a wide variety of fruits when they’re migrating in the fall. Many gardeners complain that there are holes in many fruits, made by many sparrow species.
The fruits sparrows may eat include apples, grapes, pears, cherries, loquats, plums, peaches, bananas, watermelon, etc. Every time you’re going to feed your garden sparrows some fruits, make sure to chop them into pieces. Sparrows cannot eat the whole fruit.
Like fruits, berries are in the list of the occasional diet of sparrows. The common berries that sparrows eat are strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, baneberries, bearberries, buffalo berries, chokeberries, elderberries, salmonberries, raspberries, and more.
If you want to feed your garden sparrows with different types of berries, we recommend planting many berry-bearing trees in your yard. Always offer them chopped berries in feeders because sparrows eat their treats through their small beaks.
Just like humans, birds can eat vegetables. When it comes to sparrows, they eat a few veggies, including potatoes, peas, lentils, lettuce, and tomatoes. In general, they don’t eat these items. When their food sources are not abundant, they consume some veggies to survive.
If you’re willing to provide your sparrows with some veggies from your kitchen, make sure to chop them into pieces so that sparrows can easily swallow the food. You should place a bowl of water in your yard to allow a wide variety of sparrows to drink from it.
Sparrows feast on various small insects, including caterpillars, aphids, bees, and ants, particularly during spring and early summer. They mainly catch these insects to feed their offspring. When the babies leave the nest, they return to their original diet: grains and seeds.
Some adult species consume suet and mealworms, either live or dried. Therefore, the Kaytee Seed & Mealworm Treat Cake from Amazon will be an ideal treat for these little songbirds. This seed & mealworm combo includes sunflower and safflower seed and dried mealworms.
Sparrows are mainly interested in the seeds of many trees and grasses, but they may eat leaves and grasses occasionally. When they don’t find sufficient seeds to satisfy their hunger, they need to eat plants to survive in the wild.
The plants sparrows consume include ragweed, crabgrass, buckwheat, and many flowers and buds. If you want to help them feed on plants, these plants should be available in your yard. Apart from that, you should avoid applying insecticide in the grass.
9. Human Food
Sparrows sometimes eat many human foods, like bread crumbs and French fries. If you’re willing to feed sparrows some bread crumbs, make sure to soak them into the water for a while. Sparrows cannot swallow the dried bread crumbs.
When it comes to nestlings, they don’t swallow bread crumbs even after you soak them into water. Their tiny stomachs won’t accept the food. Remember, don’t provide adult sparrows old bread crumbs. Their stomachs might be upset.
Many sparrow species are out there that search for foods in human’s waste and rubbish. You may have seen them around kitchen scraps, finding any leftover food item. They might be available in garbage cans or around dumpsters, scavenging for food.
You can keep your kitchen scraps uncovered to allow a wide variety of sparrows to eat from. This has some positive aspects. For example, sparrows will keep your surroundings clean by eating the scraps (as we all know that birds are natural pest controllers).
Sparrows Diet By Types
Almost all native sparrows eat their common foods, including grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, insects, etc. There are around 35 sparrow species are out there in North America. They’re house sparrows, song sparrows, American tree sparrows, Eurasian tree sparrows, and more.
Let’s see what they eat and whether any difference is in their diet or not. Before we’re going to discuss what these native sparrows feed on, look at the following table.
|Name of Sparrows||Scientific Name||Common Diet|
|House Sparrow||Passer Domesticus||Grains, seeds, insects, discarded food by humans, and livestock feed.|
|Song Sparrow||Melospiza Melodia||Seeds, grasses, weeds, and insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, wasps, and ants.|
|American Tree Sparrow||Spizelloides Arborea||Seeds, grains, berries, and insects.|
|Eurasian Tree Sparrow||Passer Montanus||Insects, waste grain, weeds, grasses, and seeds.|
|Great Sparrow||Passer Motitensis||Caterpillars, grasshoppers, seeds, and cultivated cereals.|
|Henslow’s Sparrow||Centronyx Henslowii||Insects, including ants, flies, moths, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers.|
|Italian Sparrow||Passer Italine||Seeds, gravel, arthropods, and shell fragments.|
What do house sparrows eat? House sparrows mainly eat grains, seeds, insects, discarded food by humans, and livestock feed. These birds are identified with their short tails, round head, full chest, and chunky body, found in urban, agricultural, and suburban areas.
What do song sparrows eat? Song sparrows mostly feed on seeds and insects, including ants, wasps, beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. In winter, they eat weeds and grasses to survive. They love insects in spring and early summer.
#American Tree Sparrow
What do American tree sparrows eat? The American Tree Sparrows’ Diet consists of seeds and insects, especially in spring and early summer. In winter when seeds and insects are not abundant, they feed on wild berries and various fruits.
#Eurasian Tree Sparrow
What do Eurasian tree sparrows eat? Eurasian tree sparrows, in general, consume Insects, waste grain, weeds, grasses, and seeds. These birds are available in Eurasia, found in suburban areas, farmlands, and open country in various trees and bushes.
What Do Great Sparrows Eat? Great sparrows feast on seeds, insects, and cultivated cereals. They get enough protein from plenty of insects, like caterpillars, grasshoppers, and mealworms. You can find these birds in Southern African regions.
What do Henslow’s sparrows eat? Henslow’s sparrows eat a variety of insects, including flies, ants, moths, beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets. The chicks are fed regurgitated insect larva and larger insects’ soft abdomens from their parents.
What do Italian sparrows eat? Italian sparrows feed on insects, seeds, arthropods, shell fragments, and gravel. They’re available in many European countries, such as Italy, France, Switzerland, Greece, and Austria. You can see them in urban, rural, forest, and rocky areas.
What Sparrows Eat in the Winter?
Sparrows, in the winter, mainly eat wild berries, including strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, elderberries, raspberries, and more. Seeds, grains, and insects are not abundant during this season due to heavy snow all over the regions.
However, sparrows are social birds. They keep a close interaction with humans to eat offered foods from enthusiast backyard birders. Many birders usually offer sparrows bread crumbs and French fries. Besides, these little birds forage for leftovers in kitchen scraps.
What Sparrows Eat at Feeders?
Although sparrows are ground foragers, they love eating at bird feeders. The foods sparrows eat at feeders are sunflower seeds, cracked corn, shelled peanuts, birdseed mix, sliced fruits and berries, suet, dried mealworms, and more.
Let’s see some of the feeders that sparrows like to eat from:
#Caged Tube Feeder: Sparrows love to eat seeds and grains from tube feeders. However, tube feeders usually have low perches. That’s why they prefer caged tube feeders that feature more perching space. The Woodlink Caged Tube Feeder from Amazon could be the best option.
#Dome Feeder: Sparrows, at dome feeders, can eat seeds, grains, nuts, and fruits offered by many backyard birders. The best thing is that these feeders have a dome that protects the treats from rainwater. The Droll Yankee Dome Feeder from Amazon is highly recommended.
#Window Feeder: If you’re an enthusiastic bird watcher, then a window feeder like the DF OMER Window Feeder from Amazon could attract various sparrows near your windows. You can add various grains, seeds, sliced fruits and berries, and a mix of various seeds and grains in the feeder.
#Hopper Feeder: At hopper feeders, sparrows would love to eat cracked corn, millet, sunflower seeds, oats, rice, and many more seeds and grains. The Woodlink Squirrel Resistant Bird Feeder from Amazon is an ideal feeder for sparrows. As the name suggests, it prevents squirrels to eat from it.
What Do Baby Sparrows Eat?
Baby sparrows eat what their parents feed them. The chicks are fed regurgitated foods from their parents because they are young enough to eat foods by themselves. The foods that young sparrows eat are mainly insects to ensure sufficient protein to grow quickly.
Once the baby sparrows are 4 to 6 weeks old, they can leave the nest. Later, they’re allowed to eat their foods, foraging in nature. When the sparrows are not properly grown-up, they cannot hunt moderately large insects; just depend on small ones, such as ants and moths.
What to Feed Baby Sparrows (And What You Shouldn’t)
If you find a young, naked sparrow on the ground, it’s too young to eat by itself. The bird needs your help. Before helping the birds, you need to know what to feed baby sparrows. You can read our article on feeding a baby bird without feathers for a general idea.
The foods you can feed the baby sparrow are:
- Cat/dog food (soaked in water)
- Hard-boiled eggs (mixed with water)
- Small insects, including ants, beetles, and moths
- Dried insects mixed with cat/dog kibble
Now, what shouldn’t you feed baby sparrows? Don’t feed the baby sparrow earthworms. Also, don’t give water to the baby bird forcefully. Just mix a little amount of water in its food. Even if you need to feed the chick some water, use a long syringe.
However, if you want to get dried insects, we recommend buying the Kaytee Dried Mealworms from Amazon. Mix some dried mealworms with cat/dog kibble and feed the baby sparrow a bit after 3 to 5 minutes. Dried mealworms provide it enough protein.
Feeding and Foraging Behavior of Sparrows
Sparrows are mainly ground foragers. They love eating grains, seeds, and insects on the ground. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t eat at feeders. Their chunky and stout bills are perfectly designed to separate the seed from the husk.
Since these little birds feast on anywhere in the wild, they will never go hungry. When feeding on something, like ripening grain or farmers’ crops, they forage for the foods in a flock. They like to hop along instead of walking to search for their food.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How do sparrows hunt?
Apart from grains and seeds, sparrows eat insects. The biggest is how they hunt insects. Sparrows use ground gleaning to eat insects from grasses. They can catch a variety of insects in flight. They may even visit lawnmowers to find stuck-on insects.
2. When and how often do sparrows eat?
Sparrows are diurnal birds, meaning they remain active during the daytime. That’s why almost all sparrow species eat their treats during this time. However, how often sparrows eat depends on their age. Featherless young sparrows need to eat regurgitated food more frequently, while the feeding frequency of adult sparrows reduces significantly.
3. What Eats Sparrows?
Many predators, including raccoons, snakes, cats, dogs, owls, falcons, and hawks, are real threats to sparrows. They might kill sparrows to eat. Oftentimes when the parents are not present in the nests, these predators break and eat the eggs.
Now that you know what sparrows eat in the wild, in the yard, and in the winter, you can offer them their favorite foods all year round (of course, according to the season). A sparrow-friendly feeder will help you feed them a variety of nutritious treats.
Hopefully, this article has successfully let you learn what to feed sparrows and their chicks (if you found any fallen on the ground). If you have any experience in feeding sparrows, you can share with us below in the comment section. We’ll be waiting for your valuable comments.