PHOTOS TO HELP YOU ID HOUSE SPARROW NESTS AND EGGS (DO NOT ALLOW THIS NON-NATIVE, OVERPOPULATED INVASIVE SPECIES TO REPRODUCE IN MANMADE NESTBOXES DESIGNED TO HELP OUR NATIVE BIRDS.)


Some elements to this House Sparrow nest. 

Good photo of the HOSP eggs. This is the nest removed from my Two-Hole Test Box on May 16, 2011. Note the variable spotting-type markings on the eggs.

It’s a sure thing none of us need to be told what a cigarette butt looks like, but I’m always amazed at how much the House Sparrow likes them in their nests. This is a good example of a splayed cigarrette butt on the left bottom of this picture. Since the HOSP likes to hang out where humans are, often we see our trash in their nests!

I learned early in bluebirding how to ID nests of different cavity-nesting species.  Bluebirds are easy to ID.  They build tidy, clean nests (at least those I’ve seen on my trail, which is the Eastern Bluebird) of either soft grasses or pine needles, depending on habitat close to their chosen nesting site, and create a perfect cup for the egg laying.   Our other native birds have a variety of materials and nesting behaviors I have learned to look for to ID the species.  After having some experience, I know the species without seeing eggs.  For instance, our Carolina Chickadee (CACH) is easy to ID by using plenty of mosses first and then layering on top with more materials, including plenty of animal and plant hairs and fibers.   The Tufted Titmouse (TUTI) will also use mosses as well as the Carolina Wren which intertwines mud and dead leaves in the mosses.   If I’m not sure on a nest what the species is, I wait for the eggs to arrive to ID for sure, as the eggs are distinct in markings and color.

We should never allow this species to reproduce in our nestboxes designed for our native birds.  To help new bluebirders to know what to look for to ID the House Sparrow nest and eggs, I’ve included a few photos below of the two nests removed.  This is the ONLY sparrow species (it’s not really a sparrow–the House Sparrow is actually a Weaver Finch) that are causing havoc for our native birds.   This is the only site on my trail that I HAD a House Sparrow problem starting with a 1-holed box.  The 1-holed box (with an existing HOSP problem) was replaced by a 2-holed test box which (over the course of the test period) solved the problem without the need to trap out HOSP.   The 2-holed box test was a success and I haven’t had any sign of HOSP for over a year.   When I removed these nests and eggs of this invasive species, I conserve them for educational purposes (such as displays and for photographs).  Remember, the House Sparrow is not protected by law so it is legal for me to remove those nests.

Two HOSP nests. Eggs laid. Nest dome not completed.  Photo looking into nests from side view.Top side of the two nests; eggs barely visible.

36 comments on “PHOTOS TO HELP YOU ID HOUSE SPARROW NESTS AND EGGS (DO NOT ALLOW THIS NON-NATIVE, OVERPOPULATED INVASIVE SPECIES TO REPRODUCE IN MANMADE NESTBOXES DESIGNED TO HELP OUR NATIVE BIRDS.)

    • Hi, Kim. I just saw this message, and it’s August 31st. The birds should be done nesting by now. It sounds like the bird you are referring to, by the way, is the Carolina Wren. There are other birds that will use porches, such as the Eastern Phoebe, Barn Swallow, and perhaps even a House Sparrow (hope it wasn’t that!). So until you can confirm which species you found the nest, I can’t answer. If you have unhatched eggs, try to describe them. Anyway, let me know more details, please!

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    • The best way to stop them is a ground trap designed for House Sparrows. Do you have a barn where both species are using it to nest (and maybe some others)? If House Sparrows are fkedging young in your out-buildings every year, you will be overtaken by them. They are extremely prolific in breeding and will kill any other birds on their turf! I am so sorry.

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  1. My wife put an artificial flower arrangement in a half basket on the front door. It came with moss. Recently we notice a bird flying away every time the door is approached or opened. However, the bird moves so fast we can’t ID it. We have found a very neat nest in the back of the basket with 4 tiny blue eggs. Looks like Bluebird eggs according to photos on the Internet. One of the eggs hatched today. How can one be sure what bird laid these eggs? We have taken photos. The eggs are not spotted as in the photos you posted.

    We have a bird garden and feed the birds regularly. We have ID over 21 species from the loud Carolina Wrens, Cardinals, Blue Jays etc. We have Downy Woodpeckers and Red Belly Wood Peckers. Blue and Rose Breasted Grossbeaks. Juncos, red House Finches, Red Wing Blackbirds, Cow Birds and the occasional Red Tail Hawk. Of course about 5 varieties of Sparrows. The list goes on and on.

    Any idea on how to get a look at mom?

    Thank you.

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  2. I have long wondered if the house sparrow’s penchant for cigarette butts could be related to some “beneficial” effect such as mite suppression or prevention by nicotine.

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  3. I live in Philadelphia,Pa. Thank you for clarifying the finch that I now know is the House Sparrow… About 10 or 12 years ago, I started noticing them. As more came I seen less and less Sparrows! Is this happening in most Major Cities? Thank You, James Minnick

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    • Hi, James. Thanks for writing. I am not sure of your question….are you asking if the non-native House Sparrow is seen less and less in cities, or OTHER NATIVE sparrows because of the “English” House Sparrow’s existence? As you know, we have many wonderful native sparrow species. Please explain more your question? Thanks.

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  4. Thank you so much for these wonderful photos of the House Sparrows, their nests and their eggs. I just pulled three of their nest including eggs out of my Purple Martin birdhouse. I googled to identify the eggs. Your site enabled me to positively identify the pest I’m dealing with. The information you provide gives me a good understanding of what to do about it. Very helpful! Thanks again!

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  5. There not scientific evidence that house sparrows destroy other birds nesting , nobody have a single video to proof that. House of wren and cats are the real denger for others birds , cats kill thousand of birds each year and cats also are not native spiacis. And also house sparrows are in decline. Read in humane society of USA.

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    • Sorry, but I disagree. Suggest you do more research on this topic. Google the words “House Sparrow attacks”, and you’ll find plenty of YouTube videos on the attacks inside nesting boxes on bluebirds, tree swallows, purple martins, etc. You might also read up here on the House Sparrow problem on native birds on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=1258#top You can find all kinds of issues and EVIDENCE about HOSP here: http://www.sialis.org/hospattacks.htm You have your own opinion, and I respect that. As a conservationist and caretaker of native cavity-nesting birds, this is my decision, and I would ask you respect that as well. I am following all wildlife laws on the control of House Sparrows for the conservation effort for the native birds to fledge young in manmade nesting boxes. As you probably know from my website, I keep accurate records on the native birds nesting cycles and report those records to several ornithology organizations. House Sparrows can nest anywhere. Since they are non-native and not protected by federal laws, I will not allow them to nest and hatch eggs in my boxes. Generally, I use the passive approach to HOSP control; occasionally, I might trap when the need to do so takes place. By the way, trapping and RELEASING House Sparrows elsewhere (as the Humane Society suggests) does not solve the problems of them attacking and killing native bird young and adults birds INSIDE manmade nesting boxes. In spite that we don’t agree about the House Sparrows, I do appreciate you taking the time to state your opinion here.

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    • I have witnessed house sparrows attacking my Eastern Bluebirds. Attacked mom bird while in nesting box. Fought her until she wore down and then destroyed the babies. I didn’t know what was going on at first but have taken care of any further problems with house sparrows. Just had three Eastern Bluebirds leave the nest yesterday!

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      • Cathy, thank you for sharing your experience. There are so many people who just do not know and understand the damage the House Sparrow does to our native birds. Once you see it first-hand up close and personal, the HOSP is no longer cute. I am glad you understand and are doing all you can to help our native bluebirds survive.

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    • In response to Anny, I have watched a blue bird build a nest every year for the past 23 years in their house. Every year the sparrows come and take material out and re-build their nest. Every year I remove their nest and the blue birds return and start all over and do hatch their eggs. Sparrows are not a very kind spieces of birds.

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      • Hello, Jayne. Thanks for the comment. The House Sparrows I know just skip removing material from another species and just build on top. If they kill the incubating female or the young inside the box, they just put their nest on top of the corpses. They are fast builders.

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    • I have seen it happen many times, in the nest boxes in my yard. First it was the bluebirds babies attacked and then last summer, Hosp killed an entire chickadee family and I managed to save 3 babies. Every summer I struggle to keep the hosp away from my nest boxes.

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  6. We are now on our third set of eggs – the first two were destroyed by sparrows after the babies were hatched. We are just a few days away from hatching and have done everything to protect these eggs (sparrow spooker, snake protection, bird cam on box, sparrow traps, etc.). We live on 8 acres and have another bluebird nesting box on the opposite side of our property and we cannot keep the sparrows out of it. They build, I take the nest out. Two hours later they are back at an almost fully constructed nest. We have the sparrow trap out but they are not interested. In March we put our sparrow trap out and was successful but when the babies were born 2 sparrows would show up out of nowhere. Very frustrating. My question is: While waiting for the bluebird eggs to hatch, should I just let the two sparrows build in the other nesting box for a couple days and then remove it and then let them begin again and just continue the process of until my bluebird eggs are hatched and the babies fly away? Seems the best thing to do to keep the two sparrows busy with their own project. Please give me your thoughts.

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    • Cathy,

      I am thinking House Sparrows are being fed and raised in unmonitored bird housing in your neighborhood. If you are being overrun by HOSP, and you are doing all you can, the native birds don’t have a chance. I can help you faster if you can send me pictures of both nestbox setups including the box, sparrow spookers, predator control, and how installed to the ground (one picture of each box) and Email it to me instead of corresponding here through my website dashboard. My Email is WoolwineHouse@gmail.com. Send me those pics as soon as possible. Bottom line, I suggest after this bluebird brood to cork up both boxes or remove them until you can rid your area of HOSP. You don’t want dead adult or baby bluebirds and other native birds due to this invasive monster bird. The more they breed, the worse it gets. It sounds like your area is infested. If that’s the case, I do NOT suggest putting up any more bluebird nestboxes until the HOSP are trapped and dispatched. Let me know on Email, please. In the meantime, allow the sparrows to finish their nest in the other box, let the female lay her clutch but DO NOT ALLOW incubation–then remove the nest and eggs and plug up that box. We can proceed from there. Thanks.

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  7. Having trouble identifing bluebird eggs vs sparrow eggs. Doesn’t bother me to trash the sparrow nests even w/eggs or hatchlings in it. I am trying very hard to have bluebirds use the houses I have provided. The #### sparrows take over again and again. The pictures of bluebird eggs vs sparrow eggs are not definitive to me. HELP.

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    • Sparrow eggs are beiged, spotted, and variated. Bluebird eggs are light blue. Why are you having trouble determining the differences? Are you doing any bird feeding? If so, make sure your feeders are far away from your nestbox and do not use mixed seed containing milo, millet, or cracked corn. That is the House Sparrow’s favorite foods. Check with your neighbors, if you have them close by….make sure they aren’t “housing and raising” House Sparrows. If you have too many House Sparrows in your area, you are better off not putting up a nestbox until you can get rid of the House Sparrows in the territory. It’s too risky for the bluebirds and other native cavity-nesting birds to raise families with the House Sparrow dominating the area. Suggest plugging up the nestbox for now and try again in the spring once you can determine the HOSP are no longer in your area. Also I suggest trapping them.

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  8. I take exception to the comments I find online about destroying and killing sparrow nests. I rescued and raised a baby sparrow who is very sweet, very social and extremely intelligent. I continue to provided nesting areas and feeding stations for the sparrows and other birds outside. There are over 15 species of birds in and around my yard and the sparrows get along fine with them all. In fact, the bully birds seem to be the larger cowbirds and blackbirds. The English Sparrow was originally imported into this country for agricultural reasons, that being, to eat insects that were eating crops in this country. There is absolutely no reason to persecute these beautiful friendly little birds, who for some reason, love to hang around us humans. Some people refer to them as an invasive species. Well they were brought here by us. Unless you are Native American, we are also an invasive species here in American. So think about that. The sad thing is that now their numbers are declining, and in England they facing possible extinction. People in England are wanting their sparrows back. So next time you see a little sparrow be kind to it.

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    • Tammy, I certainly appreciate your opinions and thoughts here, so thank you for writing. Before I answer to your note, I was wondering if I could ask some questions first, get your replies, and then I can intelligently answer. First (1), can you tell me what your bird habitat is in detail? (2) Would you please tell me which bird species (you mention a count of 15) that you said you have? (3) It would help me if I know what region you live. (4) How close are neighbors or do you live very secluded or do you live near a town setting? (5) Do you monitor the other nesting bird species you say you have (meaning do you check all the nests and can verify the health and wellbeing of the eggs and young, (6) How many nestboxes do you have on you grounds? The history of the House Sparrow and why they are here I know about. I have more to respond to, but I need some more details about your location and habitat and nesting boxes. Thanks.

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  9. I’m in Honolulu. I grew up seeing House Sparrows everywhere, even nursed a fledgling until it could fly away. In recent years, I have not seen a single House Sparrow, so I asked the local Audubon Society about it, & they said that House Sparrows are disappearing because of nesting site domination by
    Java Sparrows. I’ve seen the Javas around & thought they were finches. Anyway, I miss the House Sparrows! I hope they aren’t going to become extinct in my area!

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  10. I’m a state & federally licensed wildlife rehabber and stumbled across your wonderful site while looking for something else. I would *love* to have your permission to use the cropped photo of the EABB in flight with the beakful of mealworms as the cover photo on my nonprofit’s FB page (Laurens Wildlife Rescue), properly credited, of course.

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    • Hello, thank you for the kind words. I’m not sure WHICH photo you mean. Can you be more specific (like under WHICH page or post it is under) because I have so many pictures. I got permission to post so I need to see it first and get permission from the photographer. I have several with the mealworms.

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