Posts Tagged ‘rage’

Protecting your Martins from SPARROWS

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

magic haloI have to always make sure that I am specific when I refer to English House Sparrows. There are several birds that look like HOSP (English HOuse SParrows) but are not. I will cover that subject on another thread!

There are several popular courses of action that can be taken to protect your martins (or Bluebirds or Tree Swallows) from HOSP. All of them are better than letting the HOSP successfully rear young. Let’s tread gently, as to not offend anyone. Many people have a problem (initially) when they think about euthanizing a bird to protect a bird. It may seem counter-productive at first.  Also keep in mind if you choose to use non lethal ways to control sparrows, you risk Sparrow Rage. A deadly behavior that HOSP exhibit when their breeding cycle is disrupted.

Lets talk about

1. Stop feeding cheap bird seed. What type of seed you offer should be dependent on your area and what kind of native birds you get. There are many options for bird food that natives prefer over the inexpensive seed mixes that contain large amount of millet (proso millet). Do not feed bread. Offer seeds like sunflower (black oil) or thistle, again depending on the natives. Woodpeckers love peanuts (whole). Trim the perches on your bird-feeders so that the HOSP can not perch on them (5/8 inch) but natives will. Use upside down feeders for birds like goldfinches.  There are also woodpecker specific feeders that encourage clinging and are very HOSP unfriendly. There is a device that can be used to deter HOSP from your feeders, like a “Magic Halo” see photo at top of page. Some people have reported that placing a bird feeder inside of an upside down bucket with the handle hanging down, will deter HOSP from entering up into the feeder. If all else fails, consider removing your feeders.

2. Do NOT allow a HOSP to nest in a nest box. Remember, every HOSP will kill a native bird, if it has an opportunity. There are several things you can do. These work very well if you do not have martins at your site yet.  Pull the nest material out as often as they fill it up. Do this daily, if need be. Plug the entrance until the HOSP find somewhere else.

3. TRAP, TRAP, TRAP! What you do with the sparrow is up to you. (It IS a free country) The best solution is to euthanize the HOSP. If you have issues with euthanizing some other non lethal approaches have been tried. After the sparrow is trapped, you can trim their wings. Its like a haircut. Not painful at all and will grow back. If you trim one wing the bird will usually fly down in a circle. Clipping both will usually make the bird able to navigate a bit better as it will have equal forces of thrust on both sides. Though achieving any altitude will be difficult. You can trim the tail feathers also. The purpose of the wing trimming is to focus the birds energy on survival rather than breeding. An important note is that relocating the HOSP is NOT an effective way to control them. Besides spending a ton of money on gas, the sparrows will return before you do. Besides, the relocating of your problem to another area may well spell death to a native bird in that area. Your initial conscience saving action will only lead to the death of countless other birds, other than the one you just spared. There are sparrow traps that use food as a bait. There are also several different sparrow traps that are put within the nest.

What is Sparrow Rage? Basically when the HOSP breeding attempts are interrupted the sparrow will enter other cavities and will destroy whatever eggs, young and adult birds he is able to. No one is exactly sure why they do this. As many other birds do not do this. We can only assume it has to do with decreasing competition for nesting sites and to better insure the next clutches survival. You can be assured that English House Sparrows will be actively causing destruction whether you witness it or not. There is no such thing as Martins and Sparrows “getting along” Your colony may achieve a temporary equilibrium where a few martins can raise some young along side with HOSP. BUT if sparrows were aggressively controlled the numbers of martins at your colony would increase substantially.

Always keep in mind, doing something is always better than doing nothing. Many people describe initial hesitance with euthanizing the HOSP but after they witness the destruction, many conclude that they have to be a bit more proactive and when they do, they are glad they did. These people will all attest to the increase of martins at their sites.

Coming soon: When you want to get SERIOUS about controlling HOSP and HOSP Identification
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