The house sparrow, Passer domesticus, is a nonnative, invasive bird species found in almost every city in North America. House sparrows occupy the same ecological niche as native sparrows in many of these places; native species tend to be crowded out wherever an abundance of house sparrows are present. House sparrows, although charming to some, are a petulant species that many agree need to be managed. Removing house sparrows nests is a way to be proactive about dealing with this invasive and problematic species.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Waste-paper basket
- Stick or poking tool
Watch the birds to make sure that the nest you are about to remove belongs to a house sparrow and not to a bird that looks similar. Refer to a field guide, such as Peterson's Field Guide to Birds, or a website like Cornell's All About Birds, for help identifying the species. You must be 100 per cent sure that the nest belongs to a house sparrow, and not to a native bird; native bird nests are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and removal of their nests is punishable by law. Be careful -- some species may look very similar to house sparrows, but are a different, protected species (such as the swamp sparrow or white-throated sparrow).
House Sparrows will often nest in cavities and birdhouses intended for other species of birds. If you observe house sparrows bringing nesting material into a cavity or nest box intended for other birds, remove material before a nest can be made. Daily removal and disturbance of their nesting site will often be enough to deter house sparrows. Unfortunately, regular human activity around the nest box is also likely to deter other birds from nesting there; consider taking measures to remove whatever might be attracting house sparrows in the first place. If feeding cracked corn and millet, consider switching to a sunflower blend instead - this will cut down on the number of house sparrows visiting your area.
Removing a fully-built nest, without eggs, is easy: open up the nes tbox and scoop the nest into a wastebasket. Use gloves to protect yourself from disease and parasites. Clean the box with boiling water; do not use insecticides or flea powders for the safety of the birds. Annual cleaning is best carried out in autumn, after the breeding season is over.
If there are eggs in the nest, remove them and destroy them. Take out the nesting materials out of the nest box, and repeat cleaning procedures.
Trapping house sparrows can significantly increase successful nesting by native birds. After persistent trapping, one Californian trail ranger saw successful bluebird fledglings almost double in the first year. Call your local wildlife rescue centres or state departments of natural resources to discuss house sparrow euthanasia methods; many hawk and raptor rescue centres would be happy to accept house sparrows to feed injured owls, hawks and other birds of prey.
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