When I started research on the diet of sparrows, I didn’t know what to expect honestly. But after a week of going through books and articles, I have a good idea now.
Now, what do sparrows eat? Their most common food is seed, but they have a diverse diet that ranges from insects to fruits.
I’ve tried to compile everything about their food preferences in an organized manner to make the topic easier to digest.
Diet of Sparrows
Sparrows are omnivore birds meaning their diet is both plant and animal-based. However, the majority of their diet consists of different types of seeds, grains, and fruits. So, they are also classified as the granivore bird. Here’s a list of the most common foods for sparrows:
Seeds are one of the major components of sparrows’ diet as they are easy to find. Sparrows look for dispersed seeds on the field to eat. Sunflower seeds, canary seeds, milo, safflower seeds, corn seeds, Nyjer seeds, millet seeds, and flax seeds are some of the most common seeds that sparrows eat.
Since seeds are full of nutrition and energy, they can live almost their whole lives by only eating these.
Grains are the main food for sparrows. Sparrows eat almost all kinds of grains which include rice, wheat, barley, red and white millet, proso milo, oats, soybean, corn, and many more. Grains are easy to find and abundant. So, they do not have to go through that much hardship to look for their food.
Sparrows eat many types of small insects, but they mainly find them to feed these insects to their offspring as well. Aphid, ant, worm, caterpillar, bee, cricket, beetle, housefly, small butterfly, mantis, hermetia, etc. However, when babies of sparrows grow up, their diet then mostly consists of seeds and grains.
- Human Food
If they are offered to or can find, they also eat bits and pieces of human foods such as soaked bread crumbs, cookies, stale cheese, cooked pasta, boiled eggs and their shells, cooked rice, and many more. Younger sparrows can eat any type of stale human food, but in the case of older sparrows, it is better not to serve them anything stale as it might cause them stomach problems.
Even though sparrows mostly eat seeds and grains, from time to time, they also include plants in their diet. But they mainly eat plants when they cannot find enough grains and seeds to fulfill their hunger. They might feed on leaves, grass, buckwheat, crabgrass, ragweed, and flowers and their buds.
Fruits are the main food of sparrows when they migrate. Apple, plums, bananas, peaches, mango, papaya, cantaloupe, loquats, grapes, cherries, watermelon, and nectarines are some of the most common fruits that sparrows eat.
They also eat dried fruits like dates, almonds, peanuts, cashew nuts, pistachio, hazelnut, apricot, walnut, raisins, and figs.
Berries are also on the list of fruits that sparrows eat such as blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, elderberry, baneberry, salmonberry, chokeberry, buffalo berry, bearberry, and many more.
Every now and then, sparrows include different types of vegetables in their diet. Some of the vegetables that sparrows eat are spinach, bell pepper, potato, sweet potato, beet, romaine lettuce, Bok choy, kale, squash, beet, green papaya, and many more.
Almost all of these vegetables carry vitamin A which is very much essential for a sparrow’s diet.
Different Diet For Different Sparrows
Like every other living creature, the diet of sparrows also differs from type to type. There are many different types of sparrows such as:
- House sparrow
- True sparrow
- Rock sparrow
- Eurasian tree sparrow
- Fox sparrow
- Song sparrow
- Lark sparrow
- Golden sparrow
- Vesper sparrow
- Henslow’s sparrow
- Great sparrow
These different types of sparrows eat different types of food but there are some common elements as well.
- House Sparrow
House sparrows can be found in suburban, urban, and agricultural areas. They mainly eat seeds, grains, insects, scraps of human foods, and food for livestock.
- Eurasian Sparrow
These sparrows live in Eurasia, cultivating land, suburban areas, and the countryside. Eurasian sparrows mainly live on insects, grass, grain, seed, and weeds.
- Song Sparrow
Song sparrows consume seeds and mainly insects such as ants, beetles, grasshoppers, wasps, and caterpillars as part of their diet. They also prefer different foods in different seasons.
During the summer and spring, they generally eat different types of insects. However, in winter, their diet becomes plant-based which mainly consist of grass and weed.
- Henslow’s Sparrow
Henslow’s sparrows mainly live on different types of insects including moths, cricket, fly, ant, beetles, and grasshoppers. The baby Henslows’ are fed insect larvae and the soft gut of bigger insects.
- Great Sparrow
Great sparrows live in the Southern regions of Africa. These sparrows’ diets mainly consist of three things: seeds, grains, and insects. For seeds, they eat sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and safflower seeds.
In the case of insects, they prefer mealworms, grasshoppers, and beetle. Lastly, rye, wheat, quinoa, corn, barley, and oats are some of the grains that the great sparrows eat.
- Italian Sparrow
Italian sparrows can mainly be found in European countries such as Italy, Greece, Switzerland, France, and Austria. They build their nests in urban, forest, rural, and rocky areas.
Italian sparrows eat different types of seeds, insects, gravel, and shell of seeds and eggs. They also eat various kinds of arthropods, such as crustaceans, spiders, centipedes, scorpions, and butterflies.
- American Tree Sparrow
American tree sparrows have different seasons. In spring and summer, they feast on insects and seeds. However, in winter, when there is no insect or seed can be found, they depend on different types of fruits for their sustenance.
Different Food in Different Seasons
Sparrows eat different types of food in different seasons. This is mainly due to the unavailability of certain foods in a certain season. So, to save themselves from death, sparrows eat what is available to them at that time.
Summer and Spring
In summer and spring, insects, seeds, and grains are abundant. So, sparrows can eat these foods all they want. In the case of insects, they like to feast on the fly, caterpillar, beetle, ant, grasshopper, mantis, aphid, and bee.
For seeds; sunflower seed, black seed, safflower seed, milo, and canary seeds. And as for grains, some of their favorites are; buckwheat, rice, corn, barley, soybean, oats, corn, and many others.
Sparrows also eat different types of arthropods in summer and spring such as centipedes, spiders, weevils, crustaceans, mollusk, scorpions, and butterflies. If they can find it, sparrows also eat smaller vertebrates like baby frogs and snakes, snails, and lizards.
During winter, sparrows mainly live on seeds, grains, and fruits. Since there is a scarcity of insects in winter, they have to go on with their days without eating any insects.
Sparrows also look for human foods in residential areas. Some people leave food in the bird feeder as well. For their fruit, sparrows mainly eat different types of berries such as blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, and elderberry.
There are some migrating sparrows that fly to African regions where the coldness is very tender or non-existent in winter. So, the sparrows can eat whatever they usually eat in summer and spring.
If their food supply is short, the priority is given to the more dominant sparrow. To create this dominance, each of the sparrows shows their throat patch to their opponent.
There are different types of sparrow feeders. If you have a sparrow and if you want to get a feeder, or maybe you do not have a sparrow but still want to set up a feeder for the sparrows that live in nature, you should find the one that is most convenient for you and the sparrow.
You can find different types of sparrow feeders in the market. Or if you want to you can make one all by yourself.
Here’s a list of different types of sparrow feeder and their benefits.
Caged Tube Feeder
Sparrow prefers to consume their grains and seeds from tube feeders. However, normal tube feeder rest at a low height, which becomes inconvenient for the sparrows. If you get a caged tube feeder, you can set it at the best height for the sparrows.
Window feeders are the best feeders for bird watchers. You need to just set it up with your window and fill it up with different types of foods such as grains, seeds, fruits, and food crumbs. Then you will find sparrows flocking around your window all day long.
Dome feeders are usually set up in the backyard or the front yard of the house. You can add various types of foods for sparrows to the dome feature. And the best thing is, the dome will protect the sparrow foods from rain.
Hopper feeders have a roof that protects the food from bad weather. They also have a wide ledge which increases the surface area for the foods to disperse. Hopper feeders also save food from rats and squirrels. You can only add different types of grain and seed to this bird feeder and not any insect or fruit.
Foraging and Hunting of Sparrows
Sparrows forage for foods from bird feeders, fields, grounds, and industrial grains. They always find out which options are easy for them to get their food and go forward with that route. Sparrows do not have the tendency to be picky eaters. Sparrows always eat whatever they can find.
Sometimes sparrows rummage the fields and grounds to find seeds, insects, and grains to eat. However, sometimes the sparrows follow other birds for food or join them in their feast.
Sparrows also hunt insects from the air but they do not give much effort when hunting for insects. They save this energy to forage for seeds and grains.
Foods of Baby Sparrows
Baby sparrows’ diets mostly consist of insects that their parents provide for them. They live on these insects for up to three weeks. After three weeks, parent sparrows give baby sparrows solid foods like grain, seed, and such. As six to seven weeks pass, baby sparrows leave the nest and start to look for their food by themselves.
How to Care for a Baby Sparrow?
If you are caring for a baby sparrow you should be very careful with it as they do not have their parent for proper care. The best food for that bay sparrow would be soaked dog or cat food, both alive and dried small insects, and boiled eggs. Remember, under no circumstances should you feed them earthworms.
You should feed the baby sparrow every two to three hours. Keep it out of any potential harm and build a warm shelter for the baby sparrow. Do not feed the baby sparrow raw water.
Add a bit of water to their food but do not give it to the sparrow directly. try to find bugs around you or buy them from a shop. You can also get high-quality food in a shop to feed your baby sparrow. Always clean the bird and its surroundings after feeding it.
As they grow up, add sunflower seed, rasp seed, safflower seed, canary seed, flax seed, sorghum, Nyjer, milo, thistle, millet, and peanut to the sparrow’s diet.
If you can, give them soft fruits and vegetables such as squash, banana, mango, cantaloupe, various types of berries, potato, beet, grape, and cherries. You can also add household food items to their diets, such as bread, crackers, cheese, and cookies.
That’s All Folks
This is all about the foods of sparrows. If you want to attract them around you, set up a bird feeder near your home, and add different types of grains and seeds.
You can always find out more about their behavior by following them and keeping notes. There are also books on the diet and habits of sparrows if you want to learn more.