Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum: Magic Halo to Thwart House Sparrows

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Name: Morgan
IL (Zone 5b)
Winter Sowing Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Photography Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Feb 4, 2017 3:47 PM CST
Anyone else here had any experience using the "Magic Halo" technique to keep house sparrows from overrunning feeders? Here is a link explaining it for those not familiar already.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to make my own halo deterrent for a tube feeder. I didn't want to risk using fishing line and entangling anyone, so I started with fine wire that was weighted down with large nuts. I attached the wires every 5" around a plastic umbrella type baffle over a feeder. A week went by and not a single sparrow went to the feeder. They flew towards it, got spooked and turned around.

Problem was no one else was really using the feeder either. I removed every other wire so that they were 10" apart. There was some conflicting info online on how far apart to space the lines. Still no sparrows, but now some chickadees were tentatively using the feeder. On windy days the plastic baffle was blowing around so much that the wires were getting tangled, even with the weighs on them. I decided to switch to heavier wire that could not tangle and not need weights. I used 16-18 gauge copper wire and pulled it as straight as possible, but attached it loosely so it could still move around a bit. It seems much safer with no risk of tangling. Now I am seeing chickadees, goldfinches, house finches, and still no house sparrows!
Thumb of 2017-02-04/molanic/28a3cb

I decided to make another halo for a suet feeder. This time instead of a plastic baffle, I used an old round "grow-through" plant support. I attached chains to the top to hang it from a hook, and an s hook to the underside to hang the suet feeder from, and put just four hanging wires around the edge. I have seen chickadees, downy, and red-bellied woodpeckers using it.... but still no house sparrows on it!
Thumb of 2017-02-04/molanic/5de91a

I think I'm going to replace the plastic baffle halo with another one made from a plant support because the plastic one catches a lot of wind and knocks the feeder and wires around quite a bit. Since using the halo for more than 2 weeks, I have only had to refill the black oiler feeder once. Before, the house sparrows would completely empty it in half a day!

The house sparrows are still sticking around, but so far they are just eating some of the seed that falls on the ground around the feeders. I'm very curious to see how long this works for. They do seem to be studying the other birds! I think if this works a bit longer, I may try to rig one up for a platform feeder as well, so that the larger birds like cardinals have an opportunity to get some food too.

Has anyone else tried this, and did it work long term? I know most rural folks that put out feeders rarely have a house sparrow problem, because they stick to the more populated areas like pigeons do. Years ago we had tons of pigeons too, until they just disappeared for unknown reasons. The house sparrows are still here 365 days a year though.
Coatesville IN (Zone 5b)
Daylilies Hummingbirder Lilies Region: Indiana Dog Lover Echinacea
Butterflies Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Feb 4, 2017 5:51 PM CST
I have not tried it but did consider it at one point. I am rural and when we moved here had very few House Sparrows and we had Blue Birds. I have not seen a Blue Bird in 2 years now. But have lots of House Sparrows.

Hope you continue to have success! Thumbs up
“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.”
- Alan Keightley
Name: Morgan
IL (Zone 5b)
Winter Sowing Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Photography Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Feb 10, 2017 10:06 AM CST
It still seems to be working pretty well. I did redo the one baffle halo and it now has one less wire on it. I have one male sparrow that sometimes gets on there now, but that is it. One day I saw four goldfinches on the feeder, which I haven't seen going to the feeders in a long time. The house finches and chickadees also are doing well with it. Finally the red-bellied woodpecker is using the suet now too. The food is lasting a lot longer!

I read somewhere that it might be wise to not use the halos during mating and nesting season though, because it won't work as well. They might quickly get accustomed to it so that it won't work as well the rest of the year. Hopefully I won't have many house sparrows nesting either. I made the openings slightly smaller on the few birdhouses I have, and the house sparrows haven't used them since. The chickadees and house wrens still fit through though. It wouldn't be big enough for bluebirds, but I've never seen a one here, only at local forest preserves. We don't have the right habitat for them in our suburban yard.

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