Even in the dead of winter things can get pretty lively around a bird feeder. It’s a meeting place for cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches and those “little brown birds", the sparrows.
Sparrows are small birds with short, thick bills for cracking seeds. They prefer to feed near the ground. Sparrows are basically brown, but different kinds of sparrows have rather colorful markings, from yellow eyebrows to reddish caps and white mohawks. Some winter sparrows that you may see in Missouri include the fox sparrow, tree sparrow, and white-crowned sparrow. See and hear them in the media gallery below.
Sparrows are easily attracted to your backyard. And they eat cheap! Sparrows actually prefer the lower-priced bird seed. White millet spread on the ground, close to a shrub or bush is perfect! It’s sure to welcome in those “little brown birds", bringing activity to your bird feeder, and life to the dead of winter.
House Sparrows are very social creatures, feeding and roosting in large flocks.
- For house sparrows, a male's place in the hierarchy is spelled out by the size of the patch of black feathers on his chest. A status badge of sorts that lets everyone know who's in charge and who isn’t.
- All male house sparrows have a patch, but the larger the patch, the higher the ranking. It’s all very orderly and every bird knows his place, from the generals to the colonels to the lowly privates.
- As always, with status come perks: High-ranking males eat at safer food sites. They have bigger and better breeding territories. They’re more dominant in winter flocks, putting them first in line for food. They get more and better mates, and pair up earlier in the year than males with smaller markings.
For more on house sparrows, visit the National Audubon Society’s website.