Magichalo.org sold its very first Magic Halo on Jan 5, 2018, to a customer in an Indiana suburb. As of Feb 2020, we are heading for 225 sold. In that time, only ~15% of buyers have provided feedback thus far, via our brief survey (take the 2020 Survey and enter to win a FREE Magic Halo Regal!). Results indicate that most are successful outcomes, with ~80% reporting most or all HOSP deflected from their feeder(s) as a result of the Halo's hanging wires. No one has ever disputed product quality, or said that it simply did not work, and no one has requested a refund. All of these appear to indicate that overall, the Magic Halo (Classic & Deluxe models) is a success.
In our own experience using halos, we only have a little 0.16 acres of land here in suburban Ogletown Delaware in which to test and document the results. House Sparrows (HOSP) are clearly abundant here, and can be seen in large communal colonies in nearby evergreens or coniferous trees. They appear as bottom feeders (on the ground, below feeders) as well as attempting to use the many nest boxes we provide to native songbirds (we keep these to 1.12" holes, just too small for HOSP to fit through). Therefore, it is reasonable to think that HOSP behavior can be reliably documented here, including where interactions with the Halo is concerned.
Anytime something new is learned, we update our Users Guide to help everyone fine tune and/or make adjustments to help optimize their Halo's performance. We also include a few general tips, including squirrel-proofing and feeder design recommendations. The following is what we have learned so far in our 2 years of using, building and selling Halos, and have updated and/or made additions to said guide as follows (in no particular order):
A properly configured Magic Halo, used with a small
"Squirrel Buster" tube feeder.
- FIRST, take all precautions to prevent animal damage to your feeder system. The best systems are staked out in the open, baffled, with feeders min. 5' from the ground. They are at least 10' away from garden furniture, bushes, trees, or other objects that squirrels can launch from. Not everyone has this luxury so do the best you can otherwise, including squirrel-proof feeders.
- Hang the feeder as high and close to the Halo crossbar as possible. We started out selling all of our Halos with standard 31" length hanging wires. We later learned that some of the jumbo sized tube feeders (e.g. Brome, Droll Yankees) were so long that the lowest feeding ports ended up level or even slightly below the weighted hanging wires. The higher and more contained your feeder is inside the Halo, the more effective it will be. To that end, we changed it to 32" length and began offering optional wire extenders. Additionally, you can now choose a 38" wire length option with new Halo orders to ensure the entire feeder is covered.
- Feeder arrangement(s) that are adjacent to bushes or shrubs may reduce Halo performance. This is a new one for us. In Feb 2020 we observed that HOSP will congregate and use these to launch from close by, helping negate the presence of the hanging wires. It is recommended now that feeder setups and their Halos be placed out in the open, on a shepherds hook(s), where HOSP must fly in from a distance.
- Seed stream is important and plays a role in successful outcomes. Our happiest customers go with single stream feeding (pure seed types, e.g. black oil sunflower) as opposed to mixed seed that include millet. Some will go with multiple feeders and halos if they wish to offer more than one variety. This reduces waste, since non-native birds -- most notably HOSP and Starlings -- will frantically eject mixed seed and empty the feeder in search of the the one variety they are fixated on.
- Consider which seed type(s) you are using. HOSP are used to eating garbage, and generally shy away from cracking husks or shells, but they will if desperate. According to Sialis, just switching to black oil sunflower alone can reduce HOSP at your feeder. They also recommend straight safflower, and to stay away from millet. Read about the different types HERE.
- Wide feeders such as tray feeders or large hopper designs may reduce Halo performance. If any part of your feeder extends out beyond the Halo's hanging wires, HOSP will not have to fly past them and thus may breach. Many users claim, however, that having the wires anywhere near a feeder is enough to fully deter HOSP.
- Linear (straight) hanging wires are better. Starting at the top, pinch and slide your fingers down each hanging wire, straightening as you go. Do your best to ensure they are straight and not kinked or wavy. We are not clear how much difference this makes, but linear is what the original design calls for, and will provide the most reach. An image of how they should look appears HERE.
- A few HOSP do appear immune and/or adapted to the Magic Halo. For the first time in our 4 years using halos, we decided to feed through the Summer in 2020. A few female-looking HOSP were seen reaching the feeder, but no males, making them likely juveniles. It has always been emphasized that HOSP juveniles are immune to the Halo's presence, and both sexes appear similar given the male's immature bib. Nowhere on-line is the juvenile to adult timeline defined, therefore, we are uncertain what if any role maturity may be playing, and/or how adults are able to adapt.
- The Halo's weighted hanging wires appear to be the primary deterrent, less the halo itself. Original University of Nebraska testing of "hoop devices" over feeders did have the hoop (halo) screwed directly into the roof of pole-mounted hopper feeders. With the use of a hanger, it can place the feeder significantly lower. According to the studies, however, the mere idea of stretching wires at intervals apart does act to repel certain species of birds -- most notably HOSP. Our 20" Magic Halo is based on this theory. The official 1990 study paper can be read here in PDF.
- Try and buy an efficient feeder that doesn't waste seed by design. Do your best not to attract HOSP with abundant seed waste falling to the ground. When a feeder is filled, check that the seed level is not brimming at the feeding port(s) on a tube, or at the perch edge on a hopper (seed levels should be down at least 1/4" from the port edge on a tube and 1/2" on a hopper perch or they will likely overflow under normal use).
- It is reported that some HOSP may adapt to the Halo by perching on top, then dropping down to the feeder's perch/ports. Only a couple of our customers reported this, and it is a similar habit of HOFI (House Finches). We advised that a piece of garden (or other lightweight) netting be stretched over the Halo perimeter as a counter. We have not been able to confirm this problem here in Ogletown Delaware, and have not heard back on the results.
Lively discussion group on Facebook:
Birdhouses, Feeders & Garden Designs for Native Species
How to Squirrel-proof a bird feeder
Types of Birdseed for Outdoor Feeders
Do feeder halos keep HOSP at bay?
How to visually identify House Sparrows (HOSP)
Managing House Sparrows
House Sparrow History