House Sparrow Control

The ENGLISH HOUSE SPARROW is the number one reason for the decline in the Purple Martin population in North America. It is also responsible for the decline of other cavity nesting birds, like the Blue Bird as well. The English House Sparrow as it's name suggests is non native to North America. It is considered a pest, so it is perfectly legal to trap, shoot and kill this species. I can not stress enough, how important it is to keep your PM housing 100% free of this nasty bird. Unfortunately, because of their smaller body size, there is no such thing as a Sparrow resistant entrance hole. But just because they are a bit smaller, don't take them lightly, they are very tough and cannot be tolerated at any time in a PM house.

English House SparrowMany people have told me over the years, that they used to have nesting Martins, years ago, but they didn't know what happened. The Sparrows got into the house, started nesting, and the colony slowly disappeared. They were right.... the Male House Sparrow is very territorial. When the parent Purple Martins leave their nest for just a few minutes to go out and feed on bugs, the Male House Sparrow will often enter the Martins' compartment adjacent to his own, and destroy the Martins' eggs by pecking holes in them, or even kill the young Martin nestlings. When the parent Martins return and find their nest destroyed, they give up and abandon the house never to return again. Also the Male House Sparrow has a very powerful beak, and can easily break the leg of a Martin, or any other bird, if they get in a fight inside the compartment.

There are several ways to deal with House Sparrows, the first of course is to shoot them, but this takes time and a lot of practice. Also many people live in urban areas, where shooting is impossible. The second way is to trap them. In the long run this is my choice, it takes much less time, it's safer and very effective.

There are basically 2 types of traps, the bait trap, and the nest box trap.

I have found the best way to deal with House Sparrows is to hit them from every angle. In other words, use more than one style of trap as well as shooting if possible. Bait traps can be very affective all year long if placed in the right spot and the area has been prebaited so they get use to feeding before placing the trap. If the bait trap is not catching Sparrows, don't give up.... it's not the trap. Just keep moving it to a new location, sooner or later you will find a location that will work.

ST-1 Trap
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I have 2 types of bait traps available here, the ST-1 and a repeating trap built by Uncle Blaine. Both work very well and are the same price.

The ST-1 has 2 trapping compartments with a holding cage in the middle. Place this trap on the ground. Use fresh bread or wild bird seed mix (white millet) for bait, it is important to keep a live Sparrow in the center holding cage with food and water for a decoy. Using an old House Sparrow nest with feathers for bait during the nesting season also works very well. This trap is well built and will last many years.

Repeating Trap
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Uncle Blaines repeating trap has the advantage of catching many House Sparrows at a time, it resets it's self each time it catches a Sparrow. This trap also requires a live decoy to increase your trapping success. If you are interested in purchasing one of these bait traps contact me. I always keep a few on hand and as reasonably priced as possible.

I also have had great success during the nesting season using my Blue Bird or Tree Swallow style nest box trap. If you have several Tree Swallow nest boxes set up around your yard, it will help to take much of the Sparrow and Tree Swallow pressure off the Purple Martin House.

Many times I will notice a Sparrow start to build a nest in these houses, once the nest is near completion, the Sparrow has developed a very strong bond to the nest box. I simply attach my nest box trap to the Tree Swallow house. The trap looks identical to the Tree Swallow house, and has a C hook on the back that hooks into the entrance hole on the Tree Swallow house. Then sit back and wait for several hours, and most often you will have a Sparrow in no time. Hopefully it will be the Male, if you get him your problem is over, if you catch the female, usually the male will just find another mate and re-nest. It is important to get the male, as he is very persistent and will not give up until you get him. They are also very intelligent little buggers, so never leave the trap up in the same spot for more than a couple of days. If you trap him it will usually happen very quickly, within 24 hours. Once you get him, remove the trap.

I found the best method for trapping sparrows is to surprise them. Keep moving the trap from one location to another in your yard, this will persuade the males to check it out, or just remove the trap completely for a few days.

My nest box traps are in and out of the garage many times all summer.

House Sparrow Nest Box TrapWhen ever using any type of trap, you must CHECK THE TRAP REGULARLY (at least twice a day). If you trap a Tree Swallow or any other native bird, you must release them unharmed as soon as possible, as they are protected by law.

You should start trapping Sparrows here in Alberta by late February, the days are getting longer and milder by then. You will be surprised as to how many you will catch this early in the year. And you don't have to worry about catching any other native species, except for maybe the odd Chickadee.

My House Sparrow nest box traps are well built, reasonably priced and work very well. I can mail them out by Canada Post at a fairly reasonable cost. If you would like to purchase one, contact me for a delivered price. Or you can stop in and pick one up here if you like.

Insert Trap
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The third trapping method I use during the nesting season is the nest compartment (insert) trap, which fits inside the nest compartment of the Martin house. I make these traps to fit inside my 611 and North Star houses. These trap are very affective, it has a 1 3/8" entrance hole on the front, too small for a Purple Martin to enter. You can leave this trap in the Martin house all season long if you wish. If your Sparrow problem is severe you can use several of these traps in your Martin house at once. I make them here and they are reasonably priced. I can mail them out by Canada Post, so contact me for a delivered price to your area, or better yet, just stop in for a visit some day and pick one or two up.

Troyer S&S Controller Finally, the fourth method is the TROYER S&S CONTROLLER, as I mentioned earlier, now works very good for me after I added what I call a SPARROW SHUTTER to it. This is a little invention I figured out myself, a year or so ago. It attaches to the aluminum nest compartment, and has proven to greatly increase the efficiency of the trap with Sparrows. Before I installed this shutter, I caught very few Sparrows, but now it works just as good on Sparrows as it does on Starlings. I think every farm yard in the country should have a TROYER S&S CONTROLLER with the SPARROW SHUTTER, and we would have far less of a House Sparrow and Starling problem.

Starling Control
Tree Swallow Control
Sparrow Shutter for the Troyer S&S Controller

Back to Starling and Sparrow Control

Bob Buskas
R.R.2 Wetaskiwin
Alberta, Canada
T9A 1W9

Phone: (780) 352-2783
Northern Sky's Purple Martin Colony
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