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Have the good fortune of having sparrows around my house.

I feed basmati rice + big bowl of water to sparrows. I sprinkle basmati rice and other grains in the balcony. The sparrows flock once in the morning and another time around the afternoon/early evening and finish the rice and leave. Recently I began putting the rice in a blue bowl so that the rice/grains don't get swept off by the wind etc. Strangely enough the rice in the bowl remains untouched. They are not eating out of the bowl/box but they eat the rice sprinkled around the bowl.

My question is : Why aren't they eating out of the clean bowl.

Is blue color of the bowl scaring them away?

Will try to add pictures later on.

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    Dry or cooked? Not what you're asking, but - I know that ages ago people used this technique to kill birds considered a nuisance. They'd give them dry rice and water. The birds would eat the rice which would expand in their stomachs and kill them. – Don Branson May 29 '18 at 16:14
  • My question was why aren't they eating out of the clean bowl. I was feeding them plain uncooked raw hard rice in addition to other grains.. OMG! I don't those cute birds dying! I will stop feeding them rice + water. I will just get them plain bird feed. – kRazzy R May 29 '18 at 16:16
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    Sorry to alarm you. I think you could still feed them, but find some other thing to feed them. – Don Branson May 29 '18 at 16:17
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    The only thing I can think of is that birds like to roam and peck. When we sprinkle bird food on our patio, they don't concentrate on one spot, but move around, like they would if eating natural seeds. But then...why do they settle down at a bird feeder? – ab2 May 29 '18 at 23:54
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    @DonBranson, sorry to disappoint you, but eating rice doesn't kill birds. – Mark Jun 1 '18 at 2:50
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There are a number of different birds in the sparrow family. In Massachusetts, USA, I think what we technically have most of is the House Sparrow. This page has a whole sparrow list with their sounds. Your profile indicates that you live in California. There are lists here and here of the most common sparrows and small birds in California. Some California sparrow and related species are threatened or endangered.

We have at least 30 sparrow-looking birds on any given winter day, and many more in the summer. We also have many other birds, like blue jays and cardinals, and lots of squirrels. For that reason, we have many different shapes of feeders!

Why aren't they eating out of the clean bowl?
Our experience exactly matches what many experts say, that house sparrows and other birds in that family are mostly ground feeders. They enjoy bushes too, where they can hide while they eat. Infrequently they use a hanging feeder, but they don't like it when the feeder moves in the wind. In their natural habitat, the food they like, including grains and insects, are pretty much strewn around, or close to, the ground. We also have a lot of luck throwing seeds in the bushes, which is also part of their natural eating and nesting habitat.

Although many can be drawn to feeders, especially open platform feeders, most sparrows prefer eating on the ground, especially near trees, shrubs, or a brush pile, where they can make a quick getaway. Feeders might attract half a dozen sparrows in a yard where a good ground-feeding area would attract dozens. Source.

Sparrows don't have the body or head shape to comfortably pick through a pile of seeds, so when given an opportunity, they'll likely choose the seeds they grab while hopping. I also don't know about the depth or type of edges of the bowl you're using, but they may not feel steady and secure. I haven't tried feeding them from a bowl, so I don't want to give what could be wrong advice.

Is the blue color scaring them away?
My initial reaction was that color was likely irrelevant. However, some studies show clear differences among these birds, and blue is a preferred color among sparrows, so I doubt that's the problem in this case. In fact, if you put out a blue tray or other type of feeder, you may even see more!

The most in-depth studies I found were conducted in England. Results showed that given the choice of different colors, the sparrows' two favorites are green and blue, especially in summer. In the winter, some birds preferred silver, most likely because of the way they perceive color, which is different and more sophisticated than humans.

Colour preferences of UK garden birds at supplementary seed feeders, published in 2017 by the U.S. National Institute of Health, is long and technical, but really fascinating.

The primary aim of our research was to investigate the effect of feeder colour on the feeding preferences of wild birds.

To explore the effect of colour on the number of visits by birds, we recorded bird visit rates to 8 different coloured feeders at three sites on 78 sampling days during the winter/spring of 2014/15 (November 2014 to May 2015).

The colors were red, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, silver and black. They monitored several species of backyard visitors, including sparrows. Their research showed that sparrows preferred green, with blue a very close second. Here is a detailed graph, separated by birds and by their chosen color.

The highly respected Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reported on a similar study by the British Trust for Ornithology in Do different colored bird feeders attract different birds?. They used more colors and a broader group of birds. Their findings varied among the species, and the types of food they ate. Nevertheless, it's interesting to note that many of the backyard visitors preferred blue feeders in the summer, and silver in the winter.

In trials carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology, 12 different coloured feeders were used with a variety of food types to investigate feeder colour preferences in birds. Their popularity was measured and recorded by the amount of food consumed from each feeder. Further studies showed that for seed, blue feeders proved the most popular during the summer and that silver coloured feeders were popular all year round.

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    Thank you for the phenomenal and very insightful answer! – kRazzy R May 30 '18 at 1:45
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    It's my pleasure! I've had sparrows for years and have seen their basic eating habits, so much of that didn't surprise me. As for the color, I would never have considered it, and I've been studying birds for quite some time. My answer is only good because the question was so fascinating! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL May 31 '18 at 3:03

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