What To Do About House Sparrows

Background Information

The house sparrow (above right) is a common bird in the cities and towns of North America, but this was not always the case. Prior to the European settlement of North America, house sparrows were not present on this continent. Humans brought them to the new world and today they are causing trouble for the eastern bluebird (above left). What's the problem? Both bluebirds and house sparrows like to nest in the same kinds of places, but the sparrows are more aggressive and they are displacing bluebirds. This is particularly annoying for people who put out nest boxes for bluebirds only to have house sparrows move in and kick the bluebirds out, possibly even killing them. Fortunately, the fact that house sparrows are introduced also means that they are not on the list of protected species, so you can deal with them in a number of ways.

Nest Removal

So what can we do to help? Well, if you live in a conjested suburban neighborhood then your options are going to be limited. It may be that putting out bluebird boxes simply isn't prudent because there are too many problems. This can be discouraging, but there is no way around the facts. There is no point in putting out bluebird boxes if all you are going to produce are more and more house sparrows. That won't be good for anybody.

If you live further out in the country, however, there may be more you can do to discourage house sparrows. First, you should be sure to put out you nest boxes in open areas away from trees and shrubs. This will discourage house sparrows and wrens. Secondly, you should only put out nest boxes that can be opened. Finally, you should open these boxes frequently and check to see what's going on in them.

Bluebirds build neat nests of delicate grasses that cover the bottom of a nest box. Tree swallows make more elaborate nests that almost always include feathers of some sort. House wrens build nests out of twigs and these nests tend to completely fill the nest box. In contrast, house sparrows build big, sloppy-looking nests out of coarse grasses (below left) . If you find such a nest then you should remove it from the box.


If you are unsure what kind of nest you are looking at you'll want to look at the eggs. Bluebirds lay blue eggs, tree swallows lay white eggs, and house sparrows lay white eggs with gray speckles. (below center). If you have a twig nest with small brown eggs that are spotted with darker brown speckles (below right), then you have a house wren (a nice bird to have around!). Be sure to faithfully remove any house sparrow nests whenever they are found!

A house sparrow nest.

House Sparrow eggs.

House Wren eggs


Sometimes you may feel that there is nothing that will discourage house sparrows. In my case, my new home is situated in the right habitat and I have bluebirds, but there is a single pair of house sparrows that somehow found its way out here. House sparrows like to live around people, particularly around farms, but they are rarely found far way out in the country where there are no readily availble sources of food.

So I am going to try to remove the problem altotether by trapping the sparrows. There are many different sparrow traps available, but since I am a do-it-yourself kind of guy I am going to experiment with building my own trap. To to this I will be using a great design that I found online. The trap is called a Huber Trap and you can get the plans for one by clicking here.

Once you capture a sparrow you are going to have to decide what you want to do with it. The most important thing to remember is that you don't want to create a problem for someone else by releasing sparrows down the street. Instead, you might want to realease house sparrows in areas where they already occur in abuncance.



Here are some great links that can help you look for different types of traps and other information on bluebirds:

North American Bluebird Society

Model 601 Sparrow Trap

Double-door Sparrow Trap

Small Bird Trap (for sparrows)

Repeating Sparrow Trap

search the internet for additional information by using key words like "bluebird boxes," or "sparrow traps."