When most people worry about animal pests in their neighborhood, their biggest concerns are usually large animals such as deer, raccoons, and bears, but one of the most widespread pests in the world today comes in a small package, the common house sparrow. House sparrows are found virtually everywhere that humans are, most people pay them no mind since they are so common and seem so small and harmless, even cute. The sad truth is that these little birds are actually introduced pests on most of the planet.
House sparrows are easy enough to identify, there is certainly no shortage of them around to observe. They are small stubby birds with short wings and tails. Both genders have light-colored breasts and brown colored backs, but males have darker plumage on their backs, a gray patch on the crown of their head, and a distinct patch of black extending from the eyes and beak down across their throat. The loud chirping of house sparrows is also easy to pick out among other bird calls.
Like many other bird species, house sparrows can inconvenience humans by building nests in undesirable places. Eaves, awnings and gazebos may become nesting sites for these pests, but they can also settle into exhaust vents for dryers or stoves, or around window-mounted air conditioners. House sparrows build nests made of densely woven twigs and grasses which may clog up vents and prevent them from working properly. They also often invade large indoor public spaces and warehouses.
Unfortunately, the trouble that these birds cause ranges far beyond building nests on or in our homes and businesses. House sparrows may be small, but they are very aggressive and they compete with a number of native North American bird species for nesting sites. If house sparrows have an opportunity to steal a nest instead of building one of their own, they will usually take it. Bluebirds and Purple Martins are often the victims of these violent takeovers and both baby hatchlings and parent birds alike can be fatally mutilated by house sparrows. These pests are the bane of bird enthusiasts who install nesting boxes for native species.
If you want to help discourage house sparrows from taking over your backyard, here are a few steps you can take:
- Don’t Feed House Sparrows
House sparrows are a common sight at bird feeders, people who like to attract songbirds to their yard often see these little brown birds as an unavoidable part of owning a bird feeder. What these people don’t know is that simply switching to a black oil sunflower seed will discourage house sparrows from visiting while still attracting native birds. Bird enthusiasts should generally avoid using seed or seed mixes that include millet, cracked corn and wheat because sparrows like these seeds.
- Keep pests out of your trash
Though their primary diet consists of seeds and insects, house sparrows also like to snack on many of the things we do. They will often peck open trash bags to get at food scraps inside. Be sure to put your trash in sturdy cans with animal-proof lids. This is a smart idea for discouraging a number of neighborhood pests, not just house sparrows.
- Remove House Sparrow Nests
House sparrow nests will only lead to more house sparrows. Always be proactive and consistent about removing their nests from your property. It is much more humane to get rid of the nests before they can lay eggs in them. Removing the nests yourself is not recommended, you should probably wear thick gardening gloves and a dust mask if you want to try it yourself. House sparrows are also very persistent, and unless you want to repeat the same process of removing their nests every 7-10 days, you should probably call and ask us to bird-proof any areas where they build nests.
- When in Doubt, Call the Professionals
If you aren’t sure what kind of bird nest you are dealing with, leave it to the pros. Removing nests is difficult and messy, and you could accidentally harm a native or endangered bird species. Our wildlife experts can identify bird pests and remove their nests safely and humanely.
- Animal Proof Your Home or Business
This is always a wise choice whether you currently have a sparrow problem or not. Sparrows and other animals can easily find their way into damaged shingles, walls, or unprotected vents. Prevention is the best medicine for unwanted pests. We can identify and seal up common areas where animals can get into walls, roofs, attics, and other spaces.
- Monitor Your Birdhouse
Unless you can consistently evict or exclude house sparrows from your birdhouse, consider removing the birdhouse entirely. Fewer birds is a better alternative to more house sparrows.
We may never be able to remove these hardy pests from our neighborhoods for good, but we can help native birds by controlling their population in every way possible.