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Food for Sparrows

i David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

The natural diet of sparrows varies by the food available where they live. Bird feeders can be an important source of food for sparrows, especially during the winter. Learn about the foods you can feed these birds; whether you enjoy House Sparrows on an urban fire escape or Song Sparrows in your yard.


"Sparrows" without a qualifier to state a specific species often refers to House Sparrows; one of the most prevalent bird species in the U.S. House Sparrows were brought to the U.S. in the nineteenth century. House Sparrows eat a greater variety of food than native sparrows, including garbage from humans, ragweed, crabgrass, livestock feed, grain crops such as oats, wheat and sorghum. Native species include the Song Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows and Fox Sparrows. Sparrows of all species are social birds and often feed in groups on the ground.

Habitat and Food

Sparrows are small birds who forage for food on the ground. Their choices can vary by region and season. Song Sparrows are native birds. They make their homes throughout the continental US. Unlike the House Sparrow which likes to nest on human structures, Song Sparrows generally live in dense brush. The Song Sparrow's diet is higher in seeds in the autumn and the winter, and higher in insects during the spring and the summer.

Preferred Foods

White millet is the favorite bird seed of sparrows. They'll also eat red millet. Medium cracked corn is the best size corn for all species of sparrows' small beaks. In the wild or in your yard, sparrows of all kinds also eat insects and tender plant food such as grasses and buds. They feed insects to their offspring. From the types of bird seeds for home bird feeders, some of their favorite types are corn and black oil sunflower seeds the Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports.

Bird Feeders

Bird feeders can attract all kinds of sparrows. The hard shells of safflower and striped sunflowers seeds are difficult for House Sparrows to open. Some native sparrows can eat these hard-shelled seeds, so offering these at your feeders is an option if you want to feed native sparrows without encouraging aggressive House Sparrows. Although House Sparrows are entertaining, they may take over the nests of other birds, destroying eggs and killing baby birds.