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Old 03-29-2012, 09:10 AM   #1
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Exclamation Managing English House Sparrows around Bluebirds


Warning: This webpage deals with both active and passive means of managing House Sparrow (HOSP) populations.

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If you want to attract bluebirds, you will have to deal with House Sparrows (HOSP) if they are common in your area. HOSP are probably the number one enemy of bluebirds and purple martins. Unlike starlings, they are capable of entering the 1.5" round hole of a nestbox. HOSP have been observed threatening and attacking 70 species of birds that have come into their nesting territory.
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You might think they're cute (some bluebirders refer to them as "rats with wings"), but they attack and kill adult bluebirds (warning: graphic photos), sometimes trapping and decapitating them in the nestbox and building their own nest on top of the corpse. They destroy eggs and young. At a minimum, they often harass native birds (especially more timid species like chickadees) into abandoning nestboxes.
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The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is sometimes referred to as the English sparrow. HOSP are not native to the U.S. They were deliberately introduced in multiple locations in the late 1800's, and are now established throughout the lower 48 states. See HOSP History for information on their introduction and why they have proliferated, and HOSP photos for pictures of nest, fledglings and adults.
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If you are serious about bluebirding, you should be serious about HOSP control. Do not put up a nestbox if you are unable or unwilling to monitor it and prevent HOSP from nesting.
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CONTENTS:
Managing House Sparrows
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Old 03-29-2012, 11:16 AM   #2
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Thanks for the article Cirsium. I'm fighting the battle as we speak this should give me some more tricks for those little devils.
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Old 03-31-2012, 08:39 AM   #3
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Good to see that others are in the battle! I've been at it for many years.

I know, from experience, what works best. If you have large numbers near home, a repeating trap of any kind will help you to reduce numbers fast.

My most effective lethal control method (if you can't shoot in your area) is a Van Ert inbox trap:
Universal Sparrow Trap
As soon as HOSP are interested in a box, just place one of these. Bag 'em and tag 'em.

Anther variation is an old multi-compartment purple martin house, mounted at chest height. Equip all entrances with a door trap:
PMCA Purple Martin Market Place
They are expensive, but buy one and make a bunch, if you are handy. This method is great for a place that you can monitor all day and have HOSP that come through regularly.

My final defense is passive. Sparrow Spookers work great!
Sparrowtraps.net
If placed just after an egg is laid HOSP will rarely enter a box with one of these. The best way for this to work is to always have empty bluebird boxes available for HOSP to use and protect your bluebirds, tree swallows, etc. with spookers. Keep trapping the HOSP that build in the empty boxes.

Start as early in the season as possible. Keep at it and don't give up. You will lose adult birds. Sparrows will trap them and kill them. If you use the methods described, you should not lose a nest, eggs or young to HOSP. It may take a season or two to perfect, but it works!

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Old 04-05-2012, 03:05 PM   #4
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Oh dear... I just lost what I typed. Here is the condensed version...I hope it is ok here rather than starting a new thread.

A child built nesting boxes for a Kestrel and a Flicker. Starlings tried moving in, so the Flicker box is taken down and the Kestrel box closed up. This same child built a box for Tree Swallows, but after doing a bit of reading, I learned it is not wise to put this up where there are HOSP. We have a horrendous amount of HOSP.

Even though I never wanted to get into trapping, if we want these other birds, we have to. We had to go through a lot of mental anguish to work through this. We didn't feel it right to end the life of something that is only trying to survive like everything else and have it be a waste. And I sure wasn't going to eat those birds. I learned raptor rehabbers might take the birds, or we can even just leave them out for carrion eaters. But I have a question about that.

Of all the methods I read, using ether would probably be the best option for me. I am afraid I would bumble with the more physical methods and cause suffering. I read on the site posted above that rehabbers would not take birds if ether was used. Is it because of any chemical left on or in the birds' bodies? When we began discussing trapping and dealing with these two birds, my husband said he didn't want to be the only one doing this.

We ordered and received the trap from sparrowtraps.net. It's been out since Tuesday evening and not a single HOSP. We've had to release a couple male House Finches. Even though I put their preferred seed in the feeder, they are drawn to the trap while the HOSPs cobble up all the cheap seed around the trap. We tried putting in nesting materials and popcorn, but it blew out of the bait area with the winds we have. We tried some popcorn on the lawn for the HOSP and they really went after it. As far as I know, we've followed all suggestions that came with the trap and no takers. Am I just being too impatient?

My husband will begin building a starling nest box trap tonight. Since the other boxes are no longer available the starlings are scarce. Is it too late to get a trap up?

I hope I made sense and appreciate any help I can get.
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Old 04-06-2012, 09:45 AM   #5
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It's NEVER too late!

For your starlings, I hope that you are building a repeating type of trap. Any type that traps multiple birds without resetting is what you want.

For your HOSP, you have a good trap. It works for finches and you have a lot of HOSP. You know what the HOSP like, but they are smart enough to take what they can for free. Now you know that HOSP are about the smartest bird that you will find. As soon as you beat them, they will learn and you have to trick them again. They know when I open my door to shoot at them and simply fly away when I do. I cannot just leave my door open and they would figure that out, too. I still figure out how to beat them.

Let them eat all of the seed that you put out today. If there is no food available tomorrow, sprinkle a small amount close to the trap and put a bunch inside of it (a cup full). If they like popcorn, put some in the trap (six or eight). Put a couple of small white feathers in there, too. They love 'em. You will start to catch HOSP. They will then figure this out. You will use your superior brain to defeat them. Take the trap away when things slow down. Feed them in a new spot, a few feet away. Never too much. After a couple of days, set the trap again. You only have to be smarter than a HOSP. They want your food and other goodies. You have what they want and a trap. This is why multiple types of traps and shooting is the very best combination to eliminate as many as possible. You can get a good start with what you have.

With the type of trap that you have, you should not make things too difficult for anyone to "do the dirty deed". Fill a large can with enough water to cover the trap. Pick up the trap with the HOSP in it and drop it in the can. Recover the trap in a few minutes and let dry, and/or put back to work. If you want proof that this is quick, just watch. Less than 30 seconds passes. Ether (starting fluid) in a small bag works (if done correctly). The only thing that is more humane is cervical dislocation, which is difficult to do correctly and unpleasant.

If they are hungry and the only food is in your trap, you win.

Good luck!
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Old 04-06-2012, 12:03 PM   #6
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Thank you so much for your reply and advice. I had not thought of putting so much food into the trap itself.

Yes, the Starling trap will be repeating. He made good progress on it last night. He plans to change the holding area so the Starlings will end up in a larger cage at the bottom. We read that if you just have the tube area the sound of distressed birds can carry up.

Late in the afternoon after I posted this, three HOSP were caught. Two females and a male. It was a chunk of suet that got them. In the early evenings, they like going after the suet. Normally, it hangs on the tree trunk and they do some interesting acrobatics to get to it.

My husband did the deed using one method given with the trap and he said it was quick. Probably quicker than ether. He felt a bit miserable ending something's life. Mice are killed in traps, we swat flies that bother us, but this is totally different for us who enjoy most of the feathered creatures. We feel more attachment to their species.

We kept one female as a "decoy" as suggested, but it is not calming down and is starting to hurt itself. We have a little food and water in there. Would it just be best to take care of that one? I cannot see that a stressed bird is going to be attractive to others and it is difficult to watch.

Oh, since the sparrow is in the trap, the House Finches have stayed away.

We do not know where all the HOSP go in the middle of the day and at this time the trap is in our feeding area. We've cut down feeding anything else that is attractive to the HOSP and the number of preferred visitors have dropped. I took down the suet from the tree trunk, but today one of our woodpeckers came not finding it. I put it back.

I'd like to get the trap away from the feeding area. The HOSP do like hanging around our vehicles which not many of the others do. Maybe that can be a future location.

Thank you again for your help.
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Old 04-06-2012, 03:17 PM   #7
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Birding> Are you who I think you are>>>?
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Old 04-06-2012, 05:54 PM   #8
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It is my pleasure to help those who help our native birds. That is what you are doing. You are eliminating an introduced bird that kills our native birds. If we all allowed HOSP to reproduce, we would not have many native cavity nesting birds. Great to hear that you have started to have success! You are also learning their ways. That is important. Understanding them is probably the best thing that you can learn. They want to eat and nest. You can take advantage of both.

It is unpleasant. You are taking a life. We would not have any problems with HOSP if they did not kill our native birds. The question that you must ask is:
"Is this life more important than the life of native species?"
And:
"Can I take a life knowing that it is in the best interest of the continuation of native birds?"

I removed the corpse of the first tree swallow killed by HOSP this year from one of my bluebird boxes two days ago. It was easy to tell how it died. I do not like the act of killing HOSP, but I do enjoy the results. It is similar to removing weeds from a garden. The weeds are gone and the flowers thrive.

You will learn about "decoys" and other ways to get an advantage. A distressed decoy is worse than no decoy. Don't let this stress you out, either. Make it easy on yourself and them while you learn.

A place for trapping HOSP may be best. They are probably full and building nests, or tending to young during the day. Try different spots and times of day. Bait areas to see if you should try to trap there, first. They will keep coming, but if you trap consistently, you can keep their numbers down in your immediate area and provide a haven for cavity nesting birds. I have for years and it works!

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Old 04-07-2012, 12:27 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Equilibrium View Post
Birding> Are you who I think you are>>>?
Yep, if I had realized you were a member here, I would have put you as a referrer. I did not yet see any posts by you. Thank you for telling me about this site. It has a lot of other topics too that seem interesting to me/us.
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Old 04-09-2012, 10:13 AM   #10
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Happy Dance!!! Phew.... I'm glad I was right or else I'd feel silly asking a question like that. I wasn't sure but.... the timing seemed right. I use the same username when I register somewhere but.... seems like other folk change from site to site so you sorta threw me for a loop. 1 thing on the winged rats is that they're REALLY attracted to white feathers. I had an old down pillow that blew and started using the feathers from it. Then I ran out and went to a 2nd hand shop and bought an old down jacket for like $5 to replenish my white feather stock. Maybe try sticking some white feathers in your grass then set the trap over the top of the feathers and that along with putting the cheap seed inside the trap will help. I've been watching em taking feathers out of my chicken run so now I've been running around grabbing em all... even all the black feathers. I want them getting their "feather" fix from inside my trap not somewhere else!!!
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bird, bird house, birdhouse, birds, bluebird house, bluebirds, english, hosp, house, house sparrow, invasive birds, invasive species, managing, sparrow, sparrow spooker, sparrow trap, sparrows, trap, use for raptor rehabilitators

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