Feeding House Sparrows from a Balcony in Winter: Encouraging Birds to Visit in Urban Centers During the Cold Months


Because House Sparrows are common to urban centers, foraging around parking lots and buildings, it is possible to attract them to a balcony to feed. This is especially true during the colder months when food is harder to find.

House Sparrows

House Sparrows are of Eurasian origin. They were first brought to North America (via New York) during the 1850s. They were introduced to eat the pests that harm crops, but they turned out to be mostly vegetarian.

The House Sparrow is not closely related to North American sparrows. It belongs to the Old World Sparrows or "Weaver Finches."

These 6 inch birds like to inhabit populated and developed areas, and will live in close contact with humans. They are commonly seen around parking lots and buildings. At midday, they can often be heard chirping, while roosting under parked vehicles.

The female House Sparrow is a drab grey-brown overall, whereas the male is more noticeable with a white wing bar, dark beak and black "bib."

The Balcony Habitat

The following tips can make a balcony more attractive to the House Sparrows:

  • They are always on the lookout for larger birds of prey such as hawks, so they like to have hiding places. Large objects such as chairs and barbeques can be left in place for hiding under.
  • If there aren’t any real plants on the balcony, some artificial foliage can be added to provide a sense of security.
  • Hanging feeders can be added, dropping some of the seeds to the balcony floor. While the sparrows prefer to feed on ground level, they will also perch on a feeder.
  • Small seed mix can be scattered on the balcony floor. This allows the House Sparrows to feed in a flock, which is their usual habit.

Other Bird Species

Along with the House Sparrows, other birds such as the Dark-eyed Junco may be attracted to the balcony. Putting out other types of feeders such as hanging feeders may attract a variety of birds over time. As with all bird feeding and watching, patience is required to allow any avian visitors to get accustomed to a new food source.

Attracting birds such as House Sparrows to a balcony can be a rewarding experience. It is relaxing to sit inside, in the warm, watching the tiny visitors feed and interact within a few feet of the patio door. This can also be entertaining for children and pets.