What Do Sparrows Eat and How to Attract Them

Learn what sparrows eat, as well as which seeds and types of bird feeders to offer to attract these cheery brown fliers to your backyard.

White Throated Sparrow Male Brandywine Park, InCourtesy Adam Wilson
White-throated sparrow

If you’re looking to bring sparrows into your backyard, you’ll be pleased to note it’s not too complicated to attract them. There’s no need to wonder, “What do sparrows eat?” In fact, chances are good you already have everything you need.

These cheery brown fliers are pretty low-maintenance birds, and they aren’t particularly fussy eaters. (Just ask the invasive house sparrow, which you’ll find snacking on a variety of human and bird foods, everywhere from backyard feeders to outdoor restaurants and amusement parks.)

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Seed and Feeders for Sparrows

what do sparrows eatCourtesy Ginger Stegeman
Chipping sparrow on a tray feeder

To attract more desirable native sparrows, you need only offer sunflower seed, safflower seed, white proso millet, thistle seeds or cracked corn. Whichever seed you choose, make sure it’s on the ground, where sparrows prefer to dine.

As general ground-feeding advice, only serve a little bit of seed each day. The birds will still find it, but you’ll have fewer unwanted overnight guests (like raccoons). Plus, you won’t have to worry about the seed getting soggy when it rains. When sprinkling seed on the ground for your feathered friends, it’s best to place the food near cover, such as a brush pile or small shrubs.

Learn about the types of sparrows you might see, including the white-crowned sparrow, white-throated sparrow, chipping sparrow and Lincoln’s sparrow.

Occasionally, you might be able to attract sparrows to feeders. Large bird feeders with a good amount of surface area, like tray or platform feeders, are good at replicating open spaces. You might also try filling a bird bath with seed, although that might also attract other critters like squirrels.

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Plants for Sparrows

252620269 1 Carmen Reichhoff Krueger Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Carmen Reichhoff
Song sparrow perching on the top of a spruce tree

Sparrows eat plant material as well. Ornamental grasses and sunflowers are excellent choices for gardeners hoping to feed them. These plants offer plenty of seed for the birds to eat.

And if you have an abundant garden filled with native plants, trees and shrubs, you might draw sparrows during nesting season (psst—here’s how to keep house sparrows out of bluebird boxes). Then, the adults will snack on a variety of insects including caterpillars, wasps and beetles, and feed them to their young.

Next, check out 20 pictures that will change how you look at sparrows.

Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate editor for Birds & Blooms Digital. Throughout her years with the publication, she has written multiple articles for print as well as digital, all covering birding and gardening. In her role as associate editor, she is responsible for creating and editing articles on the subject of birding and gardening, as well as putting together Birds & Bloom's daily digital newsletter. After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a master's degree in magazine journalism and undergraduate degrees in journalism and English, she has more than eight years of experience in the magazine, newspaper, and book industries.