[CT Birds] H Sparrows and BBs

kvda at optonline.net kvda at optonline.net
Sat Aug 13 13:02:40 EDT 2011

When we moved to our current house 37 years ago, I had high hopes for bluebirds and put up some bluebird boxes.  It became apparent after a few years that we were not attracting bluebirds but that chickadees and house wrens used the boxes.  I bought metal hole protectors in chickadee size and put them over the bluebird sized entrance holes to prevent the larger house sparrows from entering the nest boxes.  This did not prevent the house wrens from entering the chickadee nesting boxes (and in my experience, house wrens also kill nestlings, and not for food but for clearing their territories) but it did keep the small birds safe from the house sparrows.  I now have only two boxes and keep them about 200 feet apart.  The house wrens leave the chickadees alone, preferring to nest in the vegetable garden.  I have read that house wren territories are fairly small, a 50 foot radius +/- so this seems to work for us.  We have the wrens keeping the garden free of insects and the chickadees have raised many successful broods in their spot on a pine tree trunk, without being bothered by wrens or sparrows.  These hole guards are very inexpensive but seems to be effective.  Of course, if you are getting bluebirds, the hole must be larger.  
Kathy Van Der Aue, East Boothbay, ME (until Monday)

----- Original Message -----
From: Carrier Graphics 
Date: Saturday, August 13, 2011 12:14 pm
Subject: [CT Birds] H Sparrows and BBs
To: ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org

> If I might make a comment on H Sparrows and BBs........
> For over 35 years, I have had BB boxes up and monitored, with 
> over 200 in my 
> town of Harwinton through the 90's, which fledged over 1,000 
> young into CT. And 
> through these years I have learned much about birds and their habits.
> As I and Dave Rosgen will attest - the only bird we know of that 
> actually will 
> commit murder is the alien House Sparrow. While other birds will 
> and do kill 
> other birds, they do it as a predator. This is how they survive 
> in the niche 
> they are born into. Killing for food is not a murderous act. 
> However, when the 
> alien House Sparrow kills other birds, it is for territorial 
> reasons only. They 
> can not tolerate other species of birds nesting close to them, 
> especially when 
> their is only one site - box available. 
> In any confrontation between a HSp and another box nesting bird 
> near them, the 
> Sparrow will always win. They will enter the box and kill the 
> adult sitting on 
> the nest, and often with young or eggs under the adult as well. 
> If the parents 
> are gone - gathering food for the young, the HSp will enter the 
> box, kill the 
> young, and sometimes, but not often, dispose the bodies outside. 
> More often they 
> will just build their nest over the other with the dead young or 
> eggs still 
> there. The HSp has a very strong bill, and with it can dispatch 
> just about any 
> bird their size. This strong bill, and their dislike for other 
> species in their 
> territory make for a real killing machine. 
> To avoid this from happening - their are some things you can do. 
> I learned this 
> from Dave Rosgen who has also been doing BBs for many years.
> he suggests placing two BB boxes 18 feet apart. I usually point 
> the two openings 
> away from each other as well. If a BBird nests in one, hopefully 
> the resident H 
> Sparrow will use the other. BUT!.......................
> You must monitor the boxes at least once a week! The plan is - 
> if the sparrows 
> have eggs or young, you must take them out. BUT - leave the 
> nest! The plan is - 
> the HSps will then lay a new clutch of eggs, hopefully leaving 
> the occupants of 
> the other nest - with luck - alone.
> This has worked for me at least 75 plus % of the time. Also - 
> you must always 
> have a predator guard on the pole the box is on! Our goal is to 
> have our box 
> birds experience as good if not better chance of raising a brood 
> than would be 
> in nature. We want to help not hinder their chances of success. 
> If we can't do 
> this - then best not to put up a bird box.
> ps - you can e mail me with any questions separately if you like.
> Hope this helps......Paul Carrier - Harwinton
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