LBJs Are Eating All The Bird Food

Not clones of the Texas-born President. Rather, the dull little birds that Judy calls LBJs, or Little Brown Jobbies.

Lately I’ve been re-filling the peanut feeder almost every day, and the bulk of its contents are going down the gullets of LBJs. I’d say they’re eating most of the sunflower seeds as well.

House sparrows gorging themselves on peanuts bought with my hard-earned dollars.
House sparrows gorging themselves on peanuts bought with my hard-earned dollars.

The real offenders are the house sparrows, also called English sparrows. Despite what they call themselves, they are actually finches, which gives you an idea of how unethical they are. These rather drab creatures, a European import, are voracious eating machines. They travel in flocks and tend to squeeze out other birds. There are larger nuisance birds like grackles and starlings, but they at least are somewhat easier to deter.

At times I consider putting an end to my backyard bird feeding because of the LBJs. But I always conclude that the pleasure of watching orioles, cardinals, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, nuthatches and others outweighs the irritation of watching LBJ devouring my peanuts, sunflowers, and money.

Besides, there’s no point in being a bird snob. We’re never going to get rid of the house sparrows, so we might as well get used to them. What’s more, if you look at them in the right way and squint a little you can see that they have a sort of understated charm. There’s that little black bib and the white patches on the cheeks … OK, the charm is very understated.

White-crowned sparrow
White-crowned sparrow

There are other LBJs which really are more appealing, especially if you look closely. It’s kind of like stamp collecting. White-throated sparrows and white-crowned sparrows have attractive head coloring. They are also mostly ground feeders, and so shouldn’t be blamed for emptying out the bird food.

White necked sparrow.
White-throated sparrow.

So how do you feel about the LBJs – frustrated, resigned, or ready to give up on the whole bird-feeding game?

44 Comments on “LBJs Are Eating All The Bird Food

  1. Don’t be so sure that you will never get rid of your sparrows. Once a nuisance here, now they are almost on our endangered list along with the starlings, all due to the changes in farming practise. We have plenty at the moment but these are winter visitors from the continent.

  2. I am actually quite fond of sparrows, but for some reason they never appear in my garden. I do get pigeons though, that in the bird snobbery stakes, also get rated very low. I like pigeons too. I like all birds except Indian mynah birds because they are very aggressive and try to chase away all the other birds. I’ve never seen sparrows like your other LBJs jason – they are very fancy with their coloured heads and stripes. Cute post.

  3. Birds are birds. In the winter, they tend to travel together in nuclear feeding flocks, so if the sparrows are there, other birds figure it is a safe time to feed. I do avoid some seeds like millet that seem to attract even more sparrows, plus I don’t use mixes as I have watched some birds toss the safflower seed to the ground while foraging through the mix for other goodies. I have not seen any “specialty” sparrows like the ones in these photos, but maybe I am not looking carefully enough.

    • I also don’t use mixes, though I have used safflower only in some feeders because it deters grackles and starlings. Your attitude is probably a sensible one.

  4. I’m also in the “birds are birds” camp. They may not be the prettiest, but I don’t like to hold that against them. And probably the other, more interesting birds would rather compete with a sparrow at a bird feeder than have to hunt around for the food themselves. It’s like waiting in line at the deli.

  5. I love that picture of the white throated sparrow and her stone companions at the birdbath!

    I don’t feed any birds, but for years we tried to get bluebirds to nest in boxes we put up, and every time they were evicted by nasty house sparrows. They were so aggressive they would peck and fight the little bluebirds into submission and take over the house. We finally took the birdhouses down. I’m really disgusted with how our yards have been taken over by the house sparrows.

    • As I said in the post, I am sometimes tempted to drop the bird feeding. Only thing is that then we would never see the orioles or woodpeckers from our back window. So sorry to hear about the bluebirds. They are not in our area so that at least is not a problem here.

    • Starlings, house sparrows, etc. – none of them would be a problem if there weren’t so many of them. But I guess we have to live with them as best we can and even appreciated them if we can manage it.

  6. I love the native sparrows – house sparrows, not so much. The 2 native sparrow species that I tend to have at my feeders, in flocks of 20-50 by the end of the winter, are white-crowned sparrows and Harris sparrows. Their plaintive songs have come to define the winter months for me.

    For the first time in several years, we’re also getting reasonable numbers of pine siskins coming in to the feeders.

    Those were great photos of the white-crowned and white-throated sparrows, by the way!

    Have you thought about joining in with Cornell’s FeederWatch program?

  7. I am filling up my sunflower seed feeder every day – it is popular with the Tits, Sadly we dont get many Sparrows here any more, maybe they have all move to the US

    • I’d gladly arrange for a bird exchange, I’d give you a good deal.We have tufted titmice in our area, but I haven’t seen them in our garden yet.

  8. I always got a lot of pleasure watching the birds at the bird feeders, until we noticed the ground squirrels were setting up underground condo cities, just beneath the feeders. It was a real problem, with chipmunk holes everywhere. Now that we have cat, we hope the chipmunk problem will be diminished, but we also realize we ought not draw the birds in to possible doom. So probably no more bird feeders for us.

  9. I like all birds, but I don’t feed them. Unfortunately, we have too many cats to feel comfortable attracting the birds. But, oh, I love seeing these beautiful creatures, no matter what kind they are.

  10. I never heard of LBJs until today when Carolyn mentioned it on my blog. What a coincidence! I agree with Nadezda. We don’t have nearly as pretty sparrows. I photographed a white one this summer and understand it it is rare. That is the only sparrow we have that is what I would call pretty. The white-throated is a real beauty, and that is a very cute photo of it. All your photos are very nice.

  11. I don’t feed birds due to my cats lurking but I do love watching house sparrows when I happen to see them. They are such inquisitive and cheeky little birds I can’t help but smile at their antics.

  12. My problem is the squirrels! The neighbor that lives behind us feeds the animals buckets full of nuts and seeds on a daily basis. Can you imagine how many over weight squirrels are digging around in my garden beds tearing up my plants…UGH!!! I feel your pain when it comes to maybe not your most favorite creature visiting your garden but you have the right attitude…finding the beauty (even if it is minimal) in those rascals! I wish I could do the same!

    • It’s a mystery to me why people feed squirrels. It’s not like there’s a squirrel shortage, or they don’t already help themselves to enough of the bird seed.

  13. Having birdfeeders is not commonly done here, but i guess if we put one all the crows will get the feeds. They even get the chicks of my mother’s chickens, during the dry season they even get the eggs.

  14. I just love those house sparrows! I feed them as well and many other birds also. My previous blog Satu’s blog has a new name and address now. It’s My life. Welcome to visit, Jason!

    Satu

  15. We have another name for them…shit birds…because we say “oh shit” when they show up. There actually is a very good reason to “not” like House Sparrows…they will kill a mother Bluebird and her babies or eggs while on nest in order to take over the nesting cavity, unfortunately I have witnessed this. They are a non-native, invasive species that competes for the same nesting cavities and will even build a nest over their dead bodies. They are one of only two birds, the other being the European Starling, that it is legal to kill, all other bird species are protected under the Federal Migratory Birds Act. You may think euthanizing them is difficult, but once you see one kill a bluebird and her clutch, it becomes easy. During Bluebird nesting season, we monitor the houses and have traps to catch House Sparrows, both in the box traps and ground traps. Lots of websites, like http://www.sialis.org have more information about this. Although we’re in the city, several years of “control” has resulted in virtually no House Sparrows in our immediate vicinity anymore. If they’re eating in an area, it means they’re breeding there, so if you can stop their breeding, you can break the cycle. Unfortunately, in a very urban area like yours, that may be near impossible.

    Another thing you might try is investigate some different feeders, they can’t hang upside down and are very clumsy flyers, there are feeders out there designed to make it difficult for them to get to the feeding ports, while other more desirable birds can. If you can limit them to only what falls on the ground, that would be a plus.

    Good Luck!

    • My options for feeders are limited since I really want to feed the big finches like cardinals and grosbeaks. That’s terrible about the bluebirds, I guess that’s one reason to be glad bluebirds don’t live in this area. I’ll definitely take a look at sialis.org and see if I can use any of their control ideas.

  16. We have feeders everywhere back and front, but the woodpeckers, and the flickers tend to stay in front. The blue jays have disappeared, we think the magpies flushed them away….and the squirrel has taken over the back yard feeder, but that’s life. I think they all need to eat, and any movement, or chirp is wonderful.

    Jen

  17. As I live in an apartment, I don’t get the chance to feed birds, but I can see that it would be horribly annoying to have certain species dominate others and take all the food (or worse – I didn’t realize house sparrows were so aggressive!). If I were in your shoes, however, I would do the same – I would keep putting out food to try to attract the more benevolent birds like the orioles and nuthatches.

  18. Hey I just started the feeding thing and I am amazed by everything fluttering around my food. Birds in Italy are not used to be fed by humans and so they are veeeeery suspicious about free food. I like sparrows, I even watch blackbirds…

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