What Do Sparrows Eat? (The Best Foods for Sparrows)

Sparrows are small songbirds found worldwide, except in Antarctica. Two types of sparrows exist. Old World Sparrows are in the family Passeridae and are often referred to as True Sparrows.

New World Sparrows are in the family of Passerellidae and look like finches. This family is most closely related to the Buntings and not closely related to the Old World Sparrows. 

Also Read: Female House Finch vs House Sparrow

Old World Sparrows are native to Europe, Asia, and Africa but have become naturalized to the Americas and Australia after introductions. Sparrows occupy many habitat types and eat a variety of foods that depend on the habitat they use. 

Sparrows commonly eat seeds, grains, nuts, fruits, vegetation, and small insects. They are also opportunists that eat some human foods and scraps they find when their preferred foods are scarce.

The most desired food by sparrows is sunflower seeds. Other seeds they enjoy include safflower, thistle, millet, oats, and any kind of livestock grain. Many birdfeed blends that people can purchase commercially contain many of these seeds.

Sparrows are highly adaptable and not only survive but thrive in human-affected landscapes such as urban areas, suburban neighborhoods, agricultural fields, gardens, and even industrial areas where few birds, other than opportunists like pigeons, live. 

what do sparrows eat
House Sparrows feeding on a raspberry cane

What Do Baby Sparrows Eat?

Baby sparrows eat whatever insects their parents can forage for them until they are old enough to leave the nest and begin foraging for themselves on other types of foods such as seeds and grains. The male sparrow typically does most of the feeding once the chicks start fledging. 

Young sparrows require sufficient protein to sustain the development process, and the insects that parents forage promote excellent growth. The baby sparrows need this insect diet for at least the first two weeks after hatching until fledging occurs. 

Common insects they feed on during the spring nesting and breeding season include caterpillars, ants, aphids, bees, wasps, and other insects the sparrow parents can catch. 

Most of their diet is insect-based during the nestling phase, but a small proportion comes from other items the parents can find, such as fruits. Once the birds reach about two weeks of age, their parents begin feeding tougher foods to them, such as grains, seeds, and nuts.

Supplemental feeding of sparrows by humans during the breeding season can help improve the nestling health. Parent sparrows that forage from high-quality human sources raise healthier young. 

What Do Sparrows Eat in Summer?

During the summer, food is plentiful, and sparrows can feast on the most nutritious foods. Rural sparrows may feed on grains fed to livestock, picking up the scraps left behind by farm animals. They sometimes forage in rural and urban gardens by eating pieces of fruits or vegetables.

People who want to attract sparrows to their suburban or rural yards can plant native grasses, ornamental grasses, and sunflowers. They should avoid using herbicides to kill less desirable plants, such as ragweed, crabgrass, and wheat, that sparrows use for forage.

What Do Sparrows Eat in Winter?

During the winter, food is more scarce. Many homeowners put out birdfeed throughout the winter to help supplement the diet of resident birds. Sparrows are like many birds thriving in human communities and take advantage of these abundant food sources.

Foods containing high energy and high protein are necessary during winter for sparrows. People can put out peanuts or birdseed coated with suet to supply birds with protein. Insects are scarce during winter, so they do not consume much protein from that source.

What is the Best Bird Food for Sparrows?

Sparrows mostly consume seeds and grains but a lower percentage of insects, fruit, and vegetable matter. These birds require a variety of foods in their diet to maintain maximum health.

The best bird foods for sparrows include a mix of sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, cracked corn, thistle seed, peanuts, and millet. Sparrows usually like to forage for seeds on the ground, so spreading it out in the grass is optimal. 

Sparrows also need to eat protein in addition to seeds and grains. Their preferred protein source is mealworms, although they will eat suet mixed with bird seed. Birdseed with protein is especially important during the breeding season.

According to some studies, sparrows prefer millet to native grass seeds and depend on grain availability from some agricultural sources. This preference can cause sparrows problems when they lose these high-quality food sources, and they must choose lower-quality foods.

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