For weeks I’ve been on a crusade to get rid of House Sparrows that settled in over the winter. We’ve never had many House Sparrows. I only put out millet in the winter months for the White-Throated Sparrows and the Dark-Eyed Juncos. Each winter, I might get a couple, but they have always left once I stopped offering millet in the spring.
But this year, the House Sparrow population built up gradually over the winter. Now I typically see nearly twenty at a time and they’ve become a problem. If I let them stay, they will nest here and the numbers will climb like crazy. They need to go. This is the story of what has turned into one of my biggest bird feeding challenges. In the end though, I did get the House Sparrows to leave.
When I was a kid, we called Dark-Eyed Juncos “snow birds.” Until I started bird watching later in life, I thought that was their actual name. To us, seeing a snow bird was a sign. It meant that it was going to snow, leading to snowmen, snow forts, saucering down the side hill and a day off of school. I suspect this childhood joy may still be a bit of the reason that I still love these little birds today. Even today, when I know that birds don’t cause the weather, I still feel joy when I see the first of the juncos and their winter pals, the White-Throated Sparrows arrive in mid-fall. Here is what I do in my yard to make sparrows welcome during the winter.
Each time I enter a home count in eBird, I include a note that the location is a “Suburban Wooded Back Yard.” The many mature trees in our yard are after all a part of the attraction for the birds that come here. Unfortunately over the past year or two, this description is starting to fray. Our lovely large trees keep falling in unusual numbers and each time this happens, it not only affects the yard’s human owners but also the birds and other creatures that live here. Over this past weekend another very large tree fell. This one in particular is going to have real repercussions for bird life in our back yard.