, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 16, 2013

New ways to deter house sparrows

There is a male Calliope hummingbird, our smallest North American hummer, visiting a feeder in Manchester, N.H. The Calliope live in the hills and mountains of the west and normally migrate to Mexico.

Occasionally a few migrate east, more often to more southern states. A few have reached Massachusetts in the past, but this is the first record for New Hampshire. Despite the cold weather, this bird has been returning to a couple of feeders that are still maintained in a yard near the Londonderry border. To survive our cold nights, hummingbirds use torpor, which is a slowing down of their heart rate and their metabolism to conserve energy. Let’s hope this little guy continues to do well.

The cold weather does keep the all the birds coming to our feeders. So many customers are commenting on how much seed the birds are going through. Of course, the squirrels and other creatures are also eating their share, but this becomes less of a problem as people learn to use effective baffles to keep squirrels and other at bay. Other folks are moving to more of the effective squirrel-proof feeders, like the Squirrel Buster series of feeders, which finally outwit most of the squirrels.

Then there are the nuisance birds. In early spring to early fall, the number two complaint, after squirrels, is always the grackles. Those long-tailed, black iridescent birds come in flocks and eat everything that you put out. Thankfully, these birds have moved south for the winter. Moving up to the number two position of nuisance birds now is the house sparrow, or English sparrow if you care to remember from whence they came. They are not even a true sparrow but a member of the weaver finch family. These birds were introduced to America in the 1800s and have proliferated such that they seem to be in every manmade dwelling and bird house in the country. And coming to most every bird feeder, or so it seems.

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