Posts Tagged ‘sparrow’

SERIOUS Hosp Control

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

OK, so you are convinced. Your Martins are outnumbered at best, “out-beaked” at worst. You have decided that all is fair in Love and War, and it’s WAR! You have gone through all this effort and as soon as you get martins to nest, the hosp show up and the martins exit, stage left.

You have to consider, with habitable purple martin housing at an all time low, the martins arrive and are desperate for nesting space. All the younger SY birds arrive and all the prime spots are full of ASY (after second year adults) birds. What is a strapping young pair of Martins to do? Well, they can wait until later in the season. Then they have to deal with hot summer temps and the disaster that can spell for nestlings. OR they can nest in housing that’s infested with (S&S) Starlings and Sparrows. The landlords will usually note that a pair started to nest, maybe even laid a few eggs but then “just disappeared”. True, several things can make a pair just vanish but I’ll bet you it’s ALWAYS some form of predation. And S&S are like cockroaches; for every one that you see, there are a dozen watching and waiting to take its place.

Enough talking. What are your trapping options?

Well, you have 3 options.

Bait trapping: Wire cage using food or nest material to lure S&S into a cage. Usually more effective with HOSP than starlings.

Nest trapping: Traps S&S within the nest compartment. Is not selective and will trap ANY bird. MUST be monitored frequently to prevent harming native birds.

Shooting:Great option for the outdoors-man who likes hunting. Takes some practice, but not as much as one might think. ALSO: check with local ordinances when it comes to discharging either a firearm or pellet gun in your area.

So lets get into this.


Bait traps can either be repeating or not. By repeating that means it re-sets by itself. A real time saver. Some of these have a holding are that you can place a bird or two-separated from the trapping area.They work a LOT better when you have at least one bird in this area as it serves as a lure for investigating birds. But since native birds can and do get caught in these traps you must monitor this type of trap and release natives ASAP.

Cheap bird seed (lots of proso millet), white bread and popcorn make great bait for these traps. During active nesting a few feathers and nest scraps make a great lure also. Try pre-baiting an area for a day or two to get the S&S accustomed to feeding in this area before you introduce the trap. But if you have martins, a day or two can be enough to cause huge losses so weigh your options. If you don’t have the luxury of pre-baiting an area…don’t worry about it. Bait your trap and get going. These traps are available on eBay for a good price. Or just Google “sparrow traps” and see a plethora of choices. There are also traps called “funnel” or “V” traps that have no moving mechanism and work on the principle that birds aren’t the brightest bulbs. (Hence the term bird-brained) These type of traps work better with sparrows but are used quite successfully on a large scale with Starlings. Basically, a narrow entry allows entry but is difficult for the trapped birds to relocate in order to escape.

Nest traps  can either be on the Purple Martin’s housing or at a separate location that the martins would not be interested in. Such as close to a tree or under a house eaves. Traps within the Martin housing have a tripping mechanism that must be reset after each catch. Unless you make the entrance hole to the compartment containing the trap smaller, you can catch sparrows AND starlings AND MARTINS! So monitor closely. There are numerous commercially available traps of this kind, depending on what type of house or gourd you are using. My personal favorite type of nest trap is a repeating nest box trap. It automatically resets after each catch. The bird enters the “nest” and drops down into a holding cage. Since you can place this trap closer to trees or a building the chances of catching a martin are slim but woodpeckers love mine. I release them quickly.

Shooting success is based on your skill level. So practice is essential. I, personally, am not comfortable with my level of expertise but its an easy and effective way to dispose of S&S in one easy step.

So you trap these S&S and what do you do with them? First, make absolutely sure its a European Starling or an English House Sparrow NOT a native look-alike.male HOSP head shotFemale HOSP head shotMale and female HOSP

Well, I do NOT recommend driving them somewhere and releasing them. Unfortunately you will just waste gas and they will fly right back or give some other poor birds grief. So what can you do to quickly and humanely euthanize the S&S you trap? I HIGHLY suggest visiting one of my favorite sites  for great detailed info on your options who I thank for the HOSP photos. The link will take you to their page which outlines numerous legal and non-legal techniques that people use. Whichever technique to trap and dispose of S&S I wish you luck. Remember, that being a Purple Martin landlord is an active endeavor. It is a hobby in which your success is often a direct measurement of your actions and in-actions. If you are fortunate enough to be in a situation where you are protecting your martins, please send a prayer to all those striving landlords that are doing everything right. Unfortunately, due to the damage inflicted by S&S, in Purple Martin numbers, many landlords housing sit empty waiting for those fortunate enough to wage the good fight with the S&S, to tip the scales and re populate the skies with the graceful bird we all love…the Purple Martin.

God Bless!

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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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July 11, 2008 English House Sparrow Blues!

Friday, July 11th, 2008

No, thank God I have NOT suffered any losses due to HOSP (House Sparrows) but the threat is ever present. All Martin Landlords or wanna-be landlords should know about the non native birds that threaten the existence of native cavity nesting birds. Though European Starlings AND English House Sparrows will kill eggs, young and adults, only the sparrow is small enough to thwart our attempts to block them from entering a nestbox. Thanks to the development of SREH (Starling Resistant Entrance Holes) Native birds now have a fighting chance against the threat of Starlings. Unfortunately there is no such “easy fix” for HOSP.  Wood Ducks, Buffleheads, Northern Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Gila Woodpeckers, Acorn Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatchers, Tree Swallows,  Eastern Bluebird and Purple Martins  can all be killed due to a HOSP attack. By their sheer numbers and prolificness they have single handedly caused significant declines to many of these birds. If you really want to see what a HOSP can do, I STRONGLY suggest going to this link to view what happens to our beloved Martins and other native birds, when such a ubiquitous bird attacks. I will warn you that the images ARE GRAPHIC. >link to HOSP attack: < 

The worse thing that can be done is to allow a HOSP to nest in one of your nest boxes. It may seem like a beautiful experience but with the hatching of the sparrows eggs and their subsequent fledging and flying out into the world, you have sealed the fate of some other cavity nesting bird somewhere. Through one act of inaction, it is possible to be responsible for over 2,000 birds in a few years.  Though the Purple Martin will only lay 1 clutch of eggs in a year, a HOSP will raise 2-5  clutches every year. Whereas the Purple Martin takes about 26 days to fledge(fly), a HOSP will fledge in about 14-16 days. A person may allow a HOSP to successfully nest because they have no native birds nesting, so why not…”What harm will it do? They’re so cute.” The fact that those 2,000 birds will disburse and spread and wreak havoc somewhere else is a heartbreak to Purple Martin Landlords, Bluebirders and TreeSwallow ‘Keepers’ everywhere.

Next posting will cover ways to control HOSP.

I Thank Sialis. org for there wonderful info and link.