These little suckers are an invasive species brought to the US in the 19th century for no other reason than to demonstrate what a really bad idea looks like. From the 50 House Sparrows that were released in 1853, we now have 150 million of the birds in the United States. House Sparrows are like rabbits with wings, with one pair laying up to 32 eggs in four separate broods each season! These birds are especially hard on cavity nesters, such as Eastern Bluebirds, often killing the young and seizing nesting boxes for their own offspring.
How to Manage House Sparrows
Treat Their Nests Like Weeds
That is to say, yank them out! House Sparrow nests are distinctive for their junky appearance. Imagine a nesting box crammed with leaves, grass, cigarette butts, straw paper and all kinds of other stuff in no discernable order. That’s a House Sparrow nest. If you see one tucked behind your gutters or in a nesting box, pull it out and throw in an outside garbage can. DO NOT TOSS IT ON THE GROUND! The little jerks will pick it up and put it right back where it was piece by piece in a day or two. And if you see eggs in the nest, place them on the ground for a snake or raccoon to make an omelet. Don’t worry, there are a lot of endangered birds in the world. House Sparrows ARE NOT one of them.
Monitor Your Nesting Boxes Regularly
Nothing worse than seeing Eastern Bluebirds finally take to your nesting box, only to discover a few weeks later that their young have been killed and the box overrun by House Sparrows. So, give those native cavity nesters some help. Check your nesting boxes a few times a week. If you see signs of House Sparrows nesting in a vacant box, take the actions outlined in the paragraph above. The Bluebirds will thank you!
Give 'Em the Cheap Food
House Sparrows, like all Sparrows, prefer to feed on the ground. One way to keep them from taking over your feeders is to indulge them with cheap food. I’m talking about the crap that’s all cracked corn, millet and oats from some big box store. Buy that and toss it on the ground well away from your other feeders. The House Sparrows will love it and leave the rest of your birdy buddies alone.
Put Them on the Bully Bird Diet
Fill your feeders with safflower, striped sunflower or peanuts in the shell. House Sparrows’ small beaks can’t break these seeds open. And put out an upside-down suet feeder if they’re attacking your suet cakes. Unlike Woodpeckers, House Sparrows have a really hard time clinging upside down. For more detail, check out the “Bully Birds” section in the BWS resource section.