Last Updated on July 8, 2022 by Nancie
Get rid of House Sparrows with a DIY Anti House Sparrow Halo: This past winter brought a small flock of House Sparrows to my yard. This spring brought a little group of Eastern Bluebirds. House Sparrows compete with bluebirds for nest cavities. They kill bluebirds (eggs, nestlings and adults) in the nest and then build their own nest on top of them. So these non-native sparrows need to go.
You can find all my attempts to get these sparrows to move on in my “Deterring House Sparrows” post. But read on if you’d like more information on one my experiments: a DIY anti-House Sparrow bird feeder halo. This halo was inspired by the “Magic Halo” that folks at the University of Nebraska devised. If you poke around online, you’ll find lots of people have made their own versions of this device. This is how I made mine.
The Original House Sparrow Magic Halo Idea
The University of Nebraska’s Magic Halo design uses a 30” wide circle of wire hung horizontally above the bird feeder. From this “halo” you then optionally hang four thin wires weighted at the bottom to hold them straight.
The idea is that House Sparrows get spooked by the wire, while many other birds do not. Putting these over a bird feeder can reportedly reduce the House Sparrows on a feeder by about 85% or more. (Note: Juveniles apparently don’t see the wires as a problem and don’t get spooked by them.)
My House Sparrow Halo Experiments
I decided to approach making a DIY halo on two tracks. First, I tried making just the halo to see if it would deter sparrows without the optional hanging wires. I used heavy multi-purpose wire from the hardware store to make a 20” wide circle. This was hung from the same baffle hook by additional heavy wire and a hook.
My homemade halo was not pretty and it also didn’t wind up deterring House Sparrows. For my local flock of sparrows, it seems that the hanging wires are needed. (Your mileage may vary here.)
So I moved on to my alternative track. I use 21” wide Erva disk baffles over many of my bird feeders. Rather than replace them with wire halos or hang halos between baffle and feeder, I tried skipping the halo. Instead, I hung wires directly from the underside of the baffle.
First, A House Sparrow Halo Test Version
For my first trial, I used extra strong outdoor electrical tape to attach metal craft wire to the baffle’s underside. Random nuts and washers found around the house served as weights. I knew the tape wouldn’t last forever but figured it would last long enough to test things out.
My test with the wired baffles went well for deterring House Sparrows. As soon as the wires went up on the baffle, House Sparrows no longer got on that feeder. They instead started poking around under some other nearby cage feeders to pick up dropped bits of sunflower hearts.
It didn’t magically get rid of all the House Sparrows in the yard, but it did work to keep them off this one feeder they particularly liked. Between this and removing nearby brush piles, I eventually got them out of the yard.
Potential Downsides to Halo Wires
Before I explain how I put this together, I need to point out some potential downsides. Most things you read make it sound like only House Sparrows get spooked by the wires. In reality, most of my local birds seemed a bit flustered when first encountering them. Some reacted by fluttering around the wires a bit and then going to a different feeder.
Some Birds Were Fine With Halo Wires
Some birds were more persistent. Or maybe they just maneuver in the air a little better. They figured out how to manage around the wire within a day or two. Other birds watched and learned from them.
I experimented first with temporary wires, then just the homemade halo. Then I tried permanent wires on this one feeder for several weeks. My constant fiddling surely drove the birds a bit crazy.
But even with all that, most of the American Goldfinches are totally cool with the wire. (They often even dangled on it.) Carolina Chickadees, Carolina Wrens and Eastern Bluebirds were also unfazed. European Starlings are not freaked by the wires (but don’t like this particular tube feeder’s ports thankfully.)
Some Birds Avoid The Feeder Or Are Skittish
House Finches avoid the wired feeder, which they used to spend a lot of time on. While a few have learned to get around the wires, most have moved to other feeders. (But no House Sparrows use this feeder either.)
The White-Breasted and Red-Breasted Nuthatches varied. Sometimes they freaked out and other times not. It may depend on the individual. The White-Breasted Nuthatches usually have a particular approach to this feeder from the tree’s trunk. When I switched to the permanent wires, I arranged it so that there wasn’t a wire hanging directly in this flight line. This seemed to do the trick for them.
It has actually been really interesting watching the nuthatches figure this out. There was one little White-Breasted Nuthatch who was initially freaked by the wires. I watched her repeatedly approach the feeder from the tree’s trunk, only to flutter back to the trunk at the last minute. After doing this this several times, she got it right. She then went back and forth a few more times without trouble. I wanted to cheer for her!
So far I haven’t seen any other birds on this feeder, including any of the spring mixed flock birds that have been in the yard lately. I don’t know if it is because they don’t like the wire or if it is because I kept messing with it and the changes made them nervous. But the permanent wires have been up for awhile now and they still haven’t come near it.
Halo Wires on Windy Days
Another potential downside is that when it is really windy, wires attached to a wind-swept baffle could whip around. So far I haven’t seen the wires move enough to be a problem, but I think it is possible. So to attach the wires more securely as a permanent solution, I needed a way that would let me remove the wires as needed.
Creating My House Sparrow Halo
To create the final version of my anti-House Sparrow halo, I used:
- An Erva extra large baffle
- Clear Command brand adhesive hanging hooks (designed for hanging Christmas tree lights outside)
- 24 gauge wire
- 3/4” split rings
- Heavy ½ – 13 zinc hex nuts.
I got the baffle from my local bird store, but they are sold on Amazon too. Everything else can be purchased at Lowes or probably other home improvement type stores.
House Sparrow Halo Wire Considerations
Halo suggestions online said to use very thin 28 to 30 gauge metal craft wire. They cautioned not to use monofilament which could entangle birds. So I got a spool of 28 gauge wire from my local Michaels craft store. My experiments with this weight of wire did not go well. The wire broke off in use several times where it attached to the heavy nuts. This meant I had to find the nut on the ground and re-hang it.
I think this wire weight is just a little too thin. So I went back to the somewhat sturdier wire I had used in my trial. It was in my craft stash and unmarked but I am fairly sure it is 24 gauge wire. (Note: I saw a pack of what looked to be the same weight wire at the local home improvement store.) It is proving to be not as fragile as the 28 gauge craft wire.
You want the wires to run from above the feeder down to a bit below the feeder. This puts the feeder completely inside the wire perimeter. You could alternatively run wires all the way down to the ground and stake them if you like. This is supposed to keep House Sparrows out from under the feeders as well. For now, I just focused on keeping them out of the feeder.
I’ve never been good about figuring out measurements for this kind of thing beforehand. So I put a tall ladder next to the baffled feeder and installed the wires in place. Doing it this way made it less likely I’d tangle the wires too. (Note: The wire length needed will vary depending on the height of the feeder, its hanger and hooks; it’s a bit of a custom fit.)
Attaching Command Hooks For Halo Wires
I was using a 21” baffle instead of a 30” halo. Worried that the change would make the wires too close together, I used just three vertical wires instead of the four in the original halo design. This allows a little more space for birds to get through the wires. I spaced the three wires evenly around the underside edge of the baffle.
I followed the Command hook package directions to attach the hooks:
- First I cleaned the baffle underside where I wanted to attach the wires with rubbing alcohol. I dried it with a paper towel.
- I peeled the protective paper off one side of one of the adhesive tabs that come with the hooks. Then I pressed it onto the back of the clear plastic hook.
- Then I peeled the protective paper off the other side of the adhesive tab. I pressed the whole thing onto the prepared surface of the baffle, holding it firmly in place for thirty seconds.
Using Split Rings For Halo Wires
I needed to attach the wires to the hooks securely while still allowing them to be removed as needed. So I used 3/4” diameter split rings (taken from a pack of 1 1/4” paper key tags.)
- I wrapped and twisted one end of the wire around a split ring.
- Then I put the ring over the hook.
- Next I pulled the wire down vertically until it hung straight and was three or four inches beyond where I wanted the nut weights to finally hang.
- Then I cut the wire. (They hang about 8 ½” below the bottom of the feeder when finished.)
Adding Nut Weights to Halo Wires
All I needed to do at this point was add the nuts to weigh down the wires so they hang straight and taut.
- I wrapped and twisted that extra length of wire through the hole of the nut multiple times.
- I used a pair of pliers to crimp the wire ends so there are no sharp ends exposed.
Step Ladder Access
To string the wires, I needed to go up and down the ladder three times. But it probably only took fifteen or twenty minutes to do the whole thing. If I want to take the wires down, I need a small step ladder, but I can simply lift the rings off the hooks to remove them. There aren’t that many really windy days when I’ll need to do this, so I think it will be fine.
House Sparrows Leave!
One Month Later: As soon as the wires went up, the House Sparrows left this feeder. After a month, I did not see any House Sparrows in the yard at all most days. If one did show up, I never saw it on this feeder. Every yard and every bird is different, but in my yard this did the trick.
The downside however is that most birds preferred other feeders to this wired one. I think it is because they had to approach this feeder more carefully to avoid the wires. They could get to the feeder, but seemed to prefer un-wired feeders.
Taking the House Sparrow Halo Wires Down
Between removing the nearby brush piles and wiring up this one feeder, the House Sparrows left the yard. Once they were completely gone for a few weeks, I removed one of the three wires. This made the House Finches more comfortable and they got back on this feeder. The House Sparrows did not return. So after another couple weeks, I took the other two wires off.
Because I have the wire on split rings, I can easily put the wires back if needed. I hope this is helpful to you if you are trying to get House Sparrows out of your feeders.
More Posts About Sparrows
- Chipping Sparrows Arrive
- The Jncos Head North
- A Fox Sparrow Visit
- Deterring House Sparrows
- Brush Piles For Birds
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12 thoughts on “My DIY Anti House Sparrow Halo”
Thanks so much for posting your observations. I’m in Toronto, Canada, and have been tinkering with DIY halos since last year to deter my huge numbers of local House Sparrows (HOSPs). My designs are similar to yours, but my results have been mixed. While many HOSPs appear spooked by the halo wires, some of them ignore the wires and perch on a feeder and then simply run their beaks back and forth over the seed troughs to drop everything to the ground for easier access. They still sometimes empty out feeders within a few hours. There are also days when the HOSPs seem to be emboldened by watching another HOSP pass the wire, and they just start swarming — it’s strange how it varies from day to day. I’m going to continue experimenting — I plan to add more wires to some of the halos and will also try longer lengths. Thanks so much again. I hope you’ll continue to post updates.
I feel your pain. House Sparrows can be VERY tenacious. I think the halos can be useful, but maybe won’t be the whole solution.
One thing I realized in watching House Sparrows in my yard is that they seem particularly to like to stay very close to cover. While this might just be true for the ones that were in my particular yard, I did find that if I removed some cover and/or moved a feeder away from cover, they were less likely to come to that feeder. In my yard, this meant getting rid of brush piles that were very close to the feeders, but it could also mean moving feeders away from the thick bushes that House Sparrows love so much.
The downside of this is that there are other birds that also like thick cover, but I did find that other sparrows in my yard (like White-Throats and the Juncos) were more tolerant of having to go a little farther from cover to get to the seed. I’m not saying that you would want to remove all cover, but feeder placement might be something you could experiment with if possible.
I only now realized that you responded. Thanks so much for the extra information. Since posting my original comment I have continued to experiment with mixed results. It seems that Toronto (Canada) House Sparrows are among the most tenacious and bold. :\ Sometimes the wires work and other days they just swarm anyway.
If you have local Northern Cardinals, have you observed how the interact with the wires? In my yard they seem to want to avoid the wires, but then again they are generally skittish and prefer open platform feeders.
Thanks as well for the interesting observations about nearby cover. It sounds like a very good idea. In my yard I have two very large Emerald Cedars which, unfortunately, the House Sparrows have decided to call home. They hang out in there all day every day. There are also many non-removable elements for cover including shrubs.
Since that last post I also ordered a commercial halo from the exact same vendor you mentioned in your response below ( https://birdfeederhalo.com/ ) and it looks much better than my homemade contraptions. It often works well, although again, the local House Sparrows here seem unusually bold. At any rate I’m very happy to have even partial deterrence Even if it’s not 100%, it’s better than non-stop invasion by HOSPs.
Once again, thanks for your wonderfully informative site! I will continue to check in for updates on how things go in your yard!
I tied string to binder clips. Used a nut on the other end. Started with a squirrel buster feeder with sunflower chips. House sparrows now don’t touch it.
Just added some to a hanging platform. House sparrows are now leaving that feeder alone. I had so many house sparrows they drove many other species away. Hoping those will come back when those who migrate return.
Hi. Can someone point me to commercial products I can buy that incorporate halos?
There is a website that sells a version of Magic Halos: https://birdfeederhalo.com/
I can vouch for Nancie’s suggestion for a commercial product above. The halos at this site https://birdfeederhalo.com/ are very nicely made and the vendor is very helpful — I’d recommend giving this a try.
RE: DIY Magic Halo sparrow deterrents
There is a great DIY video on YouTube where a gentleman shows 5 variations of DIY halos. Just search for How to Deter House Sparrows at Bird Feeders video.
I was on the verge of ordering a halo online but after I watched this very pleasant 7 minute video, I decided to try DIY.
My husband took on the project. Items required: 1 baffle or weather dome, 4 nylon cords, 4 bolts (for weights), and 4 short strips of duct tape. He created a similar Magic Halo to the one Nancy created (although we had not yet seen hers). All that is needed is some simple way to hang the cables.
It was immediately effective, at least 20 house sparrows took a swoop at it but veered away quickly without landing and none have tried since. However if you live in the big city and want to feed birds you have to accept that house sparrows are endemic and very successful at surviving and thriving. Unless they have an alternate food source for them, they will eventually breech the halo.
I have a small urban backyard with limited options to keep the sparrows distant. I have a cage tube feeder that the sparrows monopolize all day and are very resistant to sharing — so that is now there designated feeder and I keep it filled so they won’t be tempted to go to the haloed feeder. Close to the cage feeder is a platform feeder that usually has peanuts in the shell and acorns (for woodpeckers and blue jays) however now every few days I throw suet balls or other treats in for them to keep them occupied on that side of the yard.
The other feeder with the DIY halo is a Squirrel Buster Plus with the small weather dome on the lower half (the weather dome is sold separately from the feeder and I had to buy it online). The nuthatches, chickadees, and Downy seem okay with flying through the cables. I haven’t seen any Cardinals yet to assess their response.
My plan is to leave the halo up for the fall/winter as that is when the sparrows flock together in large groups. I can tolerate 35-45 sparrows arriving, but 75-100 is just too many. I will take it down for spring/summer when the large groups start to break up into smaller flocks as they ready for the breeding/nesting season.
I do think tolerance to the Halo will occur overtime (just as it did with the caged feeder which the sparrows would have nothing to do with at first). I am not optimistic that this is a permanent solution — the birds almost always adapt — which is why I recommend DIY with what you might already have at home versus ordering a Halo online that might not necessarily be customized for your feeders or situation.
Sorry for such a long message — I have unsuccessfully been fighting the Sparrow wars for a few years now. I
Thank you so much for this! It works!! I had to modify it a tiny bit because I couldn’t get hold of the baffle you used. I got a clear plastic rain cover instead. It’s 18″—so a little smaller than yours—and I was worried that it might make the three wires too close together, but it has worked really well. The chickadees, titmice, house finches, gold finches, and nuthatches are having no trouble at all. Only the house sparrows are deterred. And since I put this halo above their favorite feeder, there are far fewer coming the other two feeders as well.
(One other modification—the Command hooks didn’t stick well to my baffle, perhaps because it is plastic instead of metal, so I super glued the hooks in place.)
I’m so pleased! Thanks again!
Wonderful! I’m glad you were able to modify this to work for the baffle you use.
Thanks so much for sharing!
I always love a Magic Halo update. Over the last few years I have made several attempts with variations on the theme. I have adopted Nancy’s use of the Command hooks for outdoor lighting which makes it easy to add or take down the cables. In my small urban backyard the Magic Halo deters the sparrows for 2-3 days when it first goes up however, then they adapt. They now frequently hang onto the cables while awaiting their turn at the feeder. I took the cables down but then the sparrows would approach the feeder and spend an excessive amount of frenzied time fluttering about. Therefore I added 2 cables back and a calmness returned as they resumed landing on the cables. So my Magic Halo experiment has actually backfired . Now the sparrows like the Halo!!! Other birds also like to cling to the cables so I consider the Magic Halo an addition to my backyard feeding station — just like a good perch. (but I only leave 2 cables hanging from the overhead baffle). It has taken me several years to accept that there will always be sparrows in my urban backyard as man-made cities are their world-wide habitat. I accept them as naturalized citizens and I am always trying to find ways to make it work so that I can support the native birds as well — but that is a whole different topic. Dear Nancy, thanks for your blog — I always enjoy reading what you have to say and also readers questions and comments.
It’s just another example of birds not reading blogs about what they will and will not do! Out in the world, they watch other birds. They learn. They adapt. Sometimes things work for a while . . . and then they don’t. All it takes sometimes is one bird to figure something out and lead the way and then they are all doing it.
I’m glad you’ve come to your own terms with your local sparrows though!