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sparrows in a birdhouse

Strategies To Keep Sparrows Out Of Your Birdhouse

Let's face it: sparrows can be an absolute nuisance—especially once this bird species takes over your backyard. That's why many bird watchers will do just about anything (within reason, of course!) to get rid of house sparrows.

In this article, we'll explain why house sparrows are considered an invasive species—and help you learn some safe, effective ways to keep house sparrows out of your bird houses, nest boxes, and bird feeders.

Keep reading to learn more about preventing house sparrows. You may also be interested in our article on keeping squirrels out of a bird feeder, and how to keep ants out of your hummingbird feeder, and how to get rid of crows from your garden.

Why House Sparrows Can Be Problematic

Before we dive into how to keep sparrows out of nesting sites, we'll need to understand precisely why these house sparrows are so troublesome. Here's what you need to know:

The House Sparrow is a Highly Invasive Species

Sparrows may have originated in the Middle East, but these invasive birds can make themselves at home just about anywhere—including that sweet little nesting site you worked so hard to set up.

In fact, sparrows are so adaptable that you can find them all over the world. From Palm Springs, California to Siberian cities, a house sparrow nests just about anywhere there are people.

House Sparrows Outcompete Native Birds

When you set up your charming, safe birdhouse, you probably hoped to attract some local feathered friends. You worked hard to create a safe haven for those birds to nest, and even added amenities like a bird feeder and bird bath nearby.

Yet somehow, seemingly overnight, your backyard became overrun by the invasive house sparrow. That's because house sparrows are exceptionally aggressive. They will quickly make themselves at home in your yard, taking control of your birdhouses, bird feeders, and bird baths.

This is especially true when it comes to a bird house or nest box. For example, if you've set up bluebird nest boxes in your backyards, more aggressive birds (like the sparrow) could easily attack those nesting birds and take over their nesting spaces.

Sometimes, homeowners will even find bluebirds or other native birds who've become victims of sparrow attacks! And while any bird species can be vulnerable, some types of birds are especially at risk, including bluebirds, purple martins, orioles, and swallows.

House sparrows can kill mature birds and their hatchlings—and destroy laid eggs, too. And even if they're not fatally attacking other birds, these house sparrows may "crowd out" other bird species to terrify them out of their nesting areas.

Keeping Sparrows Out of Your Nest Boxes

Now that you know why keeping house sparrows out of your nesting sites is so important, here are some essential steps you can take to deter house sparrows from taking over your bird houses.

1. Regularly Monitor Nest Boxes

If you are serious about protecting native species like eastern bluebirds and other less aggressive birds safe from house sparrows, start by regularly inspecting each and every nest box on your property.

Remember that every bird leaves tons of clues about its identity in its nest. To figure out whether the nest you've encountered belongs to house sparrows, carefully inspect the nesting site.

Of course, the easiest way to do this is to visually witness house sparrows making use of the nest. If that's not possible, you can try to identify the birds by inspecting the plumage left behind in the nest. If a female sparrow is incubating, you might be able to catch a glimpse of a sparrow that way.

You can use binoculars or a spotting scope to identify the birds safely and without commotion.

If you spot a house sparrow nest, you'll want to remove it to prevent house sparrows from invading your space and attacking nearby birds.

2. Scare House Sparrows Off

Our next tip to keep house sparrows out of your bird houses and bird feeders? Scare them off. There are a variety of ways to startle these abundant birds, including using a...

Hawk Decoy

You've heard of a scarecrow—now, meet the "hawk decoy." Hawks are a natural predator of house sparrows, which means hawks are the perfect choice for scaring the house sparrow population in your backyard.

You can buy a hawk decoy at your local hardware store for under $20. You might want to buy several so you can add them to your gardens, patios, overhangs, and more. Any area where you think sparrows are getting a bit too comfortable.

Just keep in mind that hawk decoys may scare off other species like bluebirds and European starlings, too.

Sparrow Spooker

Another choice for discouraging house sparrows is the "sparrow spooker". Sparrow spookers can be placed directly atop bluebird nest boxes—but only after a female bluebird lays her first egg. (You don't want to scare those bluebirds off, too!)

After that, the sparrow spooker can deter sparrows—but shouldn't keep that female bluebird from tending to her precious eggs.

3. Avoid Cheap Bird Food

House sparrows prefer cheap bird food like cracked corn and other inexpensive grain products. While these choices might be wallet-friendly ways to attract more birds to your nest boxes regularly, chances are they're attracting house sparrows, too.

You should avoid the following inexpensive bird food if you want to keep house sparrows out of your nesting sites:

  • Cracked corn
  • Millet
  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Sunflower kernels
  • Bread
  • Other cheap, grain-based products

If you use mixed bird seeds, you'll want to check that the blend doesn't include any of the above ingredients either.

4. Try a Smaller Nest Box

A sparrow pokes into the entry hole of a birdhouse.

Need more ideas on how to keep sparrows out of birdhouse? Try shrinking your bluebird houses—or whatever kind of nesting box you plan to use outdoors.

A smaller birdhouse is a great way to keep house sparrows away because the entrance hole is just too small. That way, you can continue to attract bluebirds and other little feathered friends without worrying so much about aggressive house sparrows taking over.

It's also another excellent way to protect other birds during nesting season and once the hatchlings arrive.

Just keep in mind that by installing only tiny bluebird houses or other nest boxes, you may also prevent other cavity-nesting birds like cardinals from utilizing your nest box.

Selecting a bird house

There are lot of options for bird houses out there, from prefabricated to DIY. No matter what type of bird house you choose to install in your backyard, you'll want to choose a nest box that's easy to clean, free of harmful chemicals, and safe for the birds you wish to attract.

You'll also want to set reminders to clean out old nesting material after nesting season. 

And don't forget to choose a safe, secure place to install your bird house, too. You can learn more about where to install a bird house in our handy guide.

5. Place Your Nest Box in an Open Area

Another trick to stop house sparrows from taking over your nesting site? Placing your bird house in a more open area. This not only improves your own visibility, but can help protect nesting birds from predators.

6. Remove or Modify Water Features

Most birds love to splash around in a bird bath or other water feature. But if you have a sparrow problem, you'll want to do everything you can to make your backyard less appealing to these birds.

That doesn't mean you need to throw away every water feature you have in your outdoor space. After all, you want water features in place to attract native birds to your backyard and garden.

Instead, you could try to modify them. For example, add stones and rocks to your birdbaths to make them less hospitable to larger, adult birds like sparrows. Or try drippers or hanging drink stations for birds instead of full-sized bird baths.


Can You Get Rid of House Sparrows?

While there are plenty of steps you can take to discourage house sparrows from invading your space and tormenting native species, you cannot get rid of these birds completely.

In general, it goes without saying that it's never okay to kill house sparrows to control the population. Instead, you should focus on the above steps to control house sparrow populations while using tried-and-true methods to attract native species to your outdoor space.

Do keep in mind that both the Canadian and United States government have enacted legislation meant to protect migratory birds. Both the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act offer protections to vulnerable species and end the hunting of birds.

About Happy Gardens

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