Last Updated on May 25, 2022 by Marco C.
One of the most common bird species in all of North America, song sparrows are a common sight, with some watchers wondering what do song sparrows eat to attract them to their backyard. These small birds are very easy to find and attract to your own backyard, and in today’s article, we’ll be learning all about their distribution, behavior, and diet!
Table of Contents
What Do Song Sparrows Eat?
Depending on the time of year, song sparrows will eat insects if possible – but insects aren’t exactly common during the winter, so they have to resort to seeds. They’ll also gladly eat fruit!
Regarding specific insects, they eat spiders, grasshoppers, dragonflies, but also snails and earthworms (which aren’t insects, but invertebrates).
Sunflowers, wheat, and rice are among their favorite seeds, while blackberries, blueberries, and grapes are some of their favorite fruits. These birds aren’t picky and they’ll gladly eat more or less anything that’s at hand!
They forage their food from the ground (or from the trees, if the fruit and berries are growing on trees) and they rarely show themselves. Interestingly, they’ll even forage for food in shallow water if they can walk through it, where they’ll catch tiny crabs if possible.
Attracting them to birdfeeders, though, is more than possible as they’re mostly very friendly to people (especially if you offer food). Just fill your birdfeeder with sunflower seeds and they’ll approach it as soon as possible.
Learn more about: How To Keep Sparrows Away From Bird Feeder
Song Sparrow Identification and Distribution
Song sparrows can grow to be 7 inches long, while their wingspan can be 10 inches wide. They’re usually a bit smaller than that, as those examples are extreme. They rarely weigh more than 1.8 ounces.
These birds are mostly brown, but their chest and belly are white. They also have some white patches above and under their eyes. Both the brown and the white parts of the bird are covered with black streaks. Their rail is long and rounded.
When they lay their eggs, they’re usually brown with some green or white spots. They usually lay no more than five eggs at a time.
When it comes to habitat and distribution – the song sparrow is one of the most common birds in all of North America, so it comes as no surprise that they’re very widespread (essentially around the entire continent). Most of the Canadian colonies only breed there, moving further south to the USA and northern Mexico to make it through the winter.
Most colonies in the States stay there throughout the entire year, while there are very few colonies in Mexico that spend the entire year there. Even though trans-Atlantic migrations are rare, they have been spotted in Norway and Great Britain – there are no established colonies there, though.
They’ve very adaptable little birds, so they can live in more or less any type of environment. However, they like brushlands and marshes the most. As you’re aware of by now, they’re not afraid of approaching humans, which is why manmade habitats such as parks, villages, cities, agricultural fields, and orchards are also common places where you can see them.
They’re an important species in their local ecology, as they’re common food for hawks and owls (as well as other birds of prey), snakes, cats (both wild and domestic), and other predators that feed on small birds. They’re a species capable of some cultural learning – meaning that they can actually learn to recognize predators based on previous encounters and by watching other birds dealing with predators.
This means that the song sparrow has some level of intelligence to it. Scientists believe that the fear of owls and hawks is a thing of instinct, while the fear of cats is learned.
They’re avid singers and have an entire repertoire of songs, with the male being capable of singing very complicated melodies. They usually sing to protect their territory and to attract females. Interestingly, we can see the repeating pattern of cultural learning – they learn their songs by combining songs of other birds in neighboring territories.
They have also shown that they can actually tell their neighbors from their strangers just based on the song, while females can tell the difference between their mate’s song and the song of other birds.
However, the most impressive thing about them is that they can actually memorize half an hour of music and create new music, adding more to their playlist.
Read more about: Sparrow With White Stripe On Head
Do Song Sparrows eat sunflower seeds?
Yes, Song Sparrows are big fans of sunflower seeds, but they'll eat other seeds too. They'll eat essentially anything that can fit into their beaks. This makes it very easy to attract them to birdfeeders. They're not afraid of humans, and filling your feeder with sunflowers is bound to attract them.
What is the best food for Sparrows?
They like insects and invertebrates the most, but since getting seeds is easier, they'll eat seeds during the winter. They're very big fans of fruits too, especially berries, and this diversity makes it easy for them to survive the winter.
Do Song Sparrows eat fruit?
Yes, Song Sparrows will gladly eat fruit - berries, apples, pears, plums, grapes, etc. This also makes them an enemy of farmers, as they can ruin produce very easily. If you're looking to attract them, berries are probably your best bet!
Do Sparrows eat lettuce?
If starving, a Sparrow will probably eat lettuce. However, it will much rather eat insects, fruits and seeds as lettuce isn't as nearly as nutritious as those food sources.
To Sum Up
Song sparrows are some of the most common birds across the entirety of North America, and you can easily find them in every state of the United States. They prefer marshlands and open fields, as well as manmade areas if possible, but they’re very adaptable and aren’t confined by habitat.
They don’t fear people and they’ll approach people and backyard birdfeeders if you put out seeds or fruit. Sparrows are small birds, though, so they might be difficult to spot.