Beware of the house sparrow! - Pigeon-Talk
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Rondo769 Rondo769 is offline
Posted 9th January 2011, 06:10 AM
Join Date: May 2010
Location: converse,IN
Posts: 128

Beware of the house sparrow!

If you have a birdhouse in your yard, your good intentions in attempting to provide birds with a place to nest should be applauded. However, many people don't realize that by allowing a birdhouse to stand unmanaged, they are indirectly harming the very birds the house was meant to benefit, by providing a breeding ground for the worst enemy of bluebirds,tree swallows,and other cavity nesters - the House Sparrow.

The once common bluebird underwent a dramatic decline during the 1900's. A major cause was the introduction of the House (English) Sparrow. The avian equivalent of pests like rats, gypsy moths and crabgrass, House Sparrow populations exploded. They are harmful to native species such as Bluebirds, Purple Martins, Chickadees, and Tree Swallows. (If you're not sure what a House Sparrow looks like, they can often be seen in the garden section of a Lowes/Home Depot, or around fast food restaurants.)

House Sparrows are persistent, aggressive and destructive predators. They may destroy eggs and nestlings; and kill adult birds caught inside the box, sometimes building their own nest on top of the corpse. House Sparrows will not only prevent native birds from nesting in your birdhouse, but they will also breed there. Soon House Sparrows take over all available boxes.

Bluebirds rely on pre-existing nest sites like nestboxes. To help native bird populations rebound, successful bluebird landlords take steps to keep House Sparrows and European starlings (another aggressive bird that was introduced) from breeding in any birdhouses on their property.

Because House Sparrows are smaller than bluebirds, they can get into any box a bluebird can enter. There are a few styles of nestboxes not preferred by House Sparrows, including the Gilbertson. Fishing line placed strategically on a nestbox may make it less attractive to House Sparrows. A simple homemade device called a “Sparrow Spooker” with fluttering mylar strips brushing the roof top works wonders, and protects nestbox contents 24/7. It is installed after the first bluebird egg is laid (so it doesn’t scare off the bluebirds too), and removed after the babies fledge to encourage another brood and avoid House Sparrows getting accustomed to it. Instructions on how to make a Sparrow Spooker are available here:

Because House Sparrows and starlings are not native, and are considered nuisance species, they are not protected by federal law. House Sparrow nests, eggs, young, and adults may be legally removed or destroyed. Of course you must first be absolutely sure that it is actually a House Sparrow. Generally only two “brown” birds use nestboxes – the other is the native House Wren, which is smaller, arrives in CT later in the year, and builds a nest made out of sticks. It is illegal to interfere with the nest of any native bird.

If you are not willing or are unable to control House Sparrows, consider taking the nestbox down altogether. If you want to leave the house up as a decoration, you can either plug the entrance holes, use a 1 1/8” hole reducer which will allow Chickadees or House Wrens to nest, use a "fake" painted hole on decorative boxes, or remove the birdhouse floor.

One person indiscriminately putting out bird seed can also radically change neighborhood wildlife. Do not feed birds bread, or seed that contains a lot of millet or cracked corn, as this attracts House Sparrows. Thistle, safflower, and black oil sunflower seeds are enjoyed by many native birds, but are not preferred by House Sparrows. Dumping food on the ground can also attract rats.

For more information on how to attract native birds or manage House Sparrows, see It is better to have no box at all than to allow House Sparrows to reproduce in one. Helping reduce the population of House Sparrows and starlings enables native birds to survive and thrive.

There are many options to control House Sparrows - both passive (like controlling the kind of birdseed offered) and active (like removal of HOSP nests and eggs, and trapping.) Trapping is not for everyone, but many people who do trap provide the House Sparrows to wildlife rehabbers (like raptors) to be used as food for injured animals like hawks, owls, etc.

Magic halos are an interesting device that many people have had good luck with when used on feeders. They were designed by the U. of Nebraska for use on feeders only. The North American Bluebird Society Journal just published an article on someone who has tried them on nestboxes. They may not be as effective on nestboxes because the drive to procreate is so strong.

A sparrow spooker ( is incredibly effective, but must be put up AFTER the first bluebird (or tree swallow, chickadee, etc.) egg is laid and removed after fledgling for a variety of reasons (one of which is to avoid allowing House Sparrows to become accustomed to it.) Some folks also use fishing line (see

There are no entry holes that bluebirds or purple martins can enter that a HOSP can not get through, because HOSP are smaller. There are some entrances they don't seem to PREFER (like a slot entrance) but folks have had mixed success with them.

A round bluebird nestbox hole must be 1 1/2 to 1 9/16" diameter to exclude aggressive starlings. Purple martin landlords have developed some alternative hole styles that deter starlings, not House Sparrows.

FYI, for those who need more information about WHY control of House Sparrows is something to seriously consider, see accounts of HOSP attacks (warning: graphic photos) here:
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spirit wings spirit wings is offline
Posted 9th January 2011, 06:42 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Country: United States
Posts: 20,303
I have used for eastern bluebirds here the bird bottle... for four years and have about 6 under the eaves of my porch.. three pairs have used them every year.. fist pair were using it before we even finished the inside of our house we had built.. so far no sparrows.. but that from the sound of it could always change... I read this article before.. and was not sure if they were talking of eastern or western bluebirds.. but perhaps they mean both.. here is the bird bottle I have been using.
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John_D John_D is offline
Posted 9th January 2011, 08:34 AM
Join Date: Jan 2002
Country: United Kingdom
Location: South East
Posts: 9,479
Rondo -

Copying and pasting material from another site and presenting it as one's own work whether stated or by implication, whilst not necessarily an infringement of copyright, is plagiarism, as discussed very recently on another thread. It is quite sufficient to post a link to material you think may be of interest.

Please credit the author of this material and provide a link to the source.

I note you have omitted to include your response.

While it is legal to destroy eggs and nest of house sparrows, trap them, etc., lethal control of any birds is not something that PT endorses or considers suitable for discussion.

If this were about pigeons it would be removed without notice.

"Pigeons know more than we think - and think more than we know" ~ John D.
drifter drifter is offline
Posted 9th January 2011, 12:38 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 890
My dad use to cut a hole in a coffee can and the bluebirds would nest in them. This is the first time I've heard of a bluebird nesting in a bottle.

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