Seriously….House Sparrows create sad times for our native cavity nesting birds in nesting boxes!
PLEASE….DO NOT ALLOW THIS NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES TO NEST IN A MAN-MADE NESTBOX! Whatever you decide to do–passive or aggressive control, just do it! Do not let them reproduce using your nestbox. If you trap and dispatch, that’s the aggressive control–the best method of control.
The English House Sparrow (HOSP) is one of two birds in North America that are non-native and not protected by Federal Law. The other bird is the European Starling (EUST). Both species of birds were introduced to our continent and remain today predators to our native birds and are territorial, aggressive, and take cavities away from our native nesters, including Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Chickadees, and others. The House Sparrow attacks our native species, including incubating females and their eggs, nestlings, and will kill and build a nest over the corpses of our native species. The 1.5″ entry hole on our man-made Eastern Bluebird nestboxes keeps the larger birds out, such as the European Starling, but the House Sparrow can access our nestboxes to cause havoc. Given the widespread problems caused by House Sparrows, the North American Bluebird Society (NABS) advises that it is the responsibility of every nest box trail operator to ensure that no House Sparrows breed and fledge from their boxes. It is better to have no nest box than to have one which fledges sparrows. The non-native (English) House Sparrow is the biggest threat to the survival of our native bluebirds.
LISTEN HERE TO THIS CLIP OF A GROUPING OF HOUSE SPARROWS. IF YOU HEAR THIS, YOU DO NOT WANT TO PUT UP A MANMADE NESTBOX. YOU ARE ASKING FOR TROUBLE FOR THE NATIVE BIRDS USING THOSE NESTING SITES. CITY LOCATIONS, PARKING LOTS–WHERE PEOPLE ARE AND THE TRASH HOUSE SPARROWS FIND LEFT BEHIND ATTRACTS THESE GROUPINGS. ALSO NEVER FEED HOUSE SPARROWS–NO MIXED SEED, PLEASE–THE KIND WITH CHEAP FILLERS, MILLET, CRACKED CORN, ETC. USE ONLY SUNFLOWER SEEDS, SAFFLOWER SEEDS, AND HULLED SUNFLOWER SEEDS. THISTLE SEEDS, THE BLACK NYJER, WILL BE LOVED BY THE AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, TOO. SPEND THE EXTRA FEW DOLLARS TO GET NUTRITIONAL FOOD FOR THE SONGBIRDS AND DO NOT FEED THIS INVASIVE SPECIES–MILLET IS THEIR FAVORITE FOOD AT SEED FEEDERS.
What kind of damage can this species do to our native birds? If you only knew (and maybe you already do!). Please read this page on Ambassador for the Bluebirds on House Sparrows (warning: graphic image of dead bluebird from a House Sparrow attack): http://www.ambassadorforthebluebirds.net/1/category/house%20sparrows/1.html
When HOSP attack (WARNING-GRAPHIC): This is from the Sialis.org site: http://www.sialis.org/hospattacks.htm
Still need more helpin in identification? See this YouTube video online called House Sparrow Mini-Documentary (in HD). Hopefully, this video will help you ID these birds seeing them in video action with their song and behavior at a feeder–click on link. Please note the sound of the House Sparrow chirps–you’ll hear this at gas stations, Home Depots, Supermarket parking lots–they are everywhere. ALSO note all the milo and millet seeds in the feeders. Do not put out mixed seeds. The cheap brands have too much junk. Cursor down this page below for a “Dear Property Owner” letter on using mixed seed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umyHo31BLbQ
So! House Sparrows versus Bluebirds – always trouble for bluebirds!
Read on below on how I controlled a House Sparrow situation in one location along my bluebird trail – an area where trapping and use of gadgets just was not possible or appropriate because of the location next to an elementary school and church and not being close to my home for me to manage trapping.
A “defensible” nestbox for bluebirds in a House Sparrow location?! Really? How does it work?
I am happy to share my story below. For those who cannot trap and dispatch this invasive species, this can work for you if you use all Keys to Success as detailed by the designer of this nestbox, Linda Violett for this nestbox to work for bluebirds to win over the nestbox: http://home.earthlink.net/~lviolett/keys.html
THE GOOD NEWS:
I agreed to do a 3-Year test using this nestbox design. My 4th season using the 2-Hole Mansion with success of EABL v HOSP using Linda Violett’s ”Keys to Success”, which are two (or more) acres of forage space for the bluebird couple, no trapping, no gadgets like spookers and halos, and no bird feeding. So….first two years HOSP and EABL, here is what happened:
- I removed HOSP nests and HOSP laid eggs first two years. THEN both same years, later after HOSP tried, the Eastern Bluebirds moved in after HOSP failed and had one brood both years.
- 3rd Season–Year 2012: no HOSP tried to build nests in this. THEN, THREE Eastern Bluebird broods too place successfully–no nestling or adult bluebird deaths from HOSP.
- This year, Year 4 2013: using this existing 2-hole mansion, nothing but bluebirds! At least thus far….
I agreed to do this test because the original one-hole nestbox I was using “in-town”…smack next to an elementary school and church and just behind someone’s else’s house and not near me. HOSP found it and tried to nest in it. Trapping was not convenient or appropriate in this particular location—therefore I welcomed trying this mansion two-holer out with agreement I follow the “keys to success” for this test site. I figured, “Hey, why not try this? I am always open to experiment, especially if it is to help bluebirds.” First egg clutch below for 2013 is in this 2-hole mansion. There is a stovepipe guard on this setup below the box, but no Noel guard is necessary because of the depth of this nestbox. Starlings, jays, etc., cannot enter or reach down that far. The two holes is the ventilation and provide an “escape” route in the event of a HOSP attack. The larger box gives the nestling more room to grow and stretch and exercise and julmp around inside the nestbox prior to fledging. The nestbox is air and water tight. Note: Even if HOSP broke bluebird eggs or attacked nestlings inside this nestbox, the adult bluebird survives by escaping through the extra hole. However, that did NOT happen on this test at all. That means if the adult bluebird can escape, they now have power OUTSIDE THE NESTBOX to defend and maintain their claim to the nestbox. When attacked inside a one-holer nestbox, they cannot survive a HOSP attack. Interesting 3-year test–very enjoyable for me. Hatching is expected on or around May 1 for this first clutch of bluebirds. This is a special treat for me to see this. Though it was technically a 3-year test, the mansion remains and I’m continuing this year after year for more results to add to the records, a success story on my bluebird trail. Do I believe in trapping and dispatching HOSP? Yes. Did I need to in this particular location? No. Whether you agree with this or not, all I can tell you is Year 4 is starting and the HOSP have not returned or attempted to nest and there have been no tragedies. I’m just passing on the good news I’ve experienced in my efforts on this nestbox design—very appropriate for me to use in this particular location. Many thanks to Linda Violett for mentoring me on this for the past four years. I appreciate the patience you had with me on all my questions. Also a big thank you to the homeowner who allowed me to switch from the one-holer to the two-holer to conduct this test.
This box is a highlight on my bluebird trail. Here is the text from my 2012 Final Report for the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail:
“Highlight — The 3-Year Test-Two Hole “Mansion” (from Linda Violett, Yorba Linda, CA) was a MAJOR winner this season! – THIS YEAR, absolutely no House Sparrows (HOSP) attempted to nest in this area where the HOSP built nests and laid eggs (removed by me) in 2010 and 2011 which later bluebirds fledged one brood each year — this without me intervening with gadgets like Sparrow Spookers or HOSP trapping. A total of 12 bluebird young fledged this box this year, in spite of a blowfly issue in one nest and house wrens entering the nestbox while the bluebirds babies from Brood 3 were attempting to fledge. My first bluebird nesting material dropped inside was discovered on March 16 with a partial nest built. The first egg laid was March 27th. The third brood bluebirds fledged on August 14th! This is 5 months of bluebird activity! More information in detail and a summary report will be coming to the website to conclude this 3-year test, written by Linda Violett and me. I expect to have this online by end of September (or sooner). I have many thanks to make: to the homeowner who supported me in this nestbox project and to Linda Violett for mentoring and supporting me during this test. The nestbox will remain for 2013, with permission by the homeowner. This nestbox has proven to be the second most successful on the trail, not far behind Box #15 as the top producer of Eastern Bluebirds on my bluebird trail!”
See the test page on my website to learn more: http://woolwinehousebluebirdtrail.com/test-2-holers/
OR….go to Violett’s Bluebirds page on this test site for results: http://home.earthlink.net/~lviolett/testwoolwine.html
Want an easily printed out plan for this nestbox? You can find it here on Nestbox Builder. Look under “front opening” boxes: http://www.nestboxbuilder.com/nestbox-plans.html#frontopeners
DO NOT FEED AND THUS ATTRACT THE INVASIVE PEST SPECIES, HOUSE SPARROWS — MIXED SEED WARNING AND ADVICE–PASSIVE METHOD TO CONTROL HOUSE SPARROW POPULATION.
Please Help Bluebirds and Other Native Birds Survive and Thrive: A House Sparrow Advisory. (Borrowed from Sialis.org)
Dear Property Owner,
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 nature lovers 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 – 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 (Passer domesticus). 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, making it virtually impossible for them to successfully nest. (If you’re not sure what a House Sparrow looks like, they can often be seen in the garden section of a 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. One pair of House Sparrows could theoretically multiply into more than a thousand birds over a five year period. Soon House Sparrows take over all available boxes. It is better to have no box at all than to allow House Sparrows to reproduce in one.
Bluebirds rely on pre-existing nest sites like nestboxes. Please help native bird populations rebound in our area by taking steps to keep House Sparrows and European Starlings (another aggressive bird that was introduced) from breeding in any birdhouses on your property.
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. If you are not willing or are unable to do this, please consider taking the nestbox down altogether. If you want to leave the house up as a decoration, but don’t have the time or desire to control this predator, please either plug the entrance holes, 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. Please 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 attract rats.
Rev.0.4, 06/09/07. Eastern Bluebird photo by Wendell Long.
This page and photo taken from the www.Sialis.org site.
RETURN TO THIS SITE’s HOME PAGE: http://woolwinehousebluebirdtrail.com/