Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bluebirds are back - how to deter sparrows

Our bluebirds are back.  We have two bluebird houses in our yard.  The problem is we also have some very territorial house sparrows which will chase the bluebirds out, toss out the eggs and have been known to kill bluebirds nesting.
Well it might look like a mess, but let me describe the "junk" hanging over our bluebird house.
The streamers are sparrow spookers.  The idea for the sparrow spookers came from the website:  I highly recommend this website if you are looking for information on bluebirds or want to attract them to your yard. (homepage here:  The site includes detailed information, plans and photos on how to deter predators.

We have a pair of bluebirds that have had a brood of babies 2 years ago.  Two weeks ago they started nesting in one of the bird houses.  
A male sparrow wasn't nesting in that birdhouse, but decided it was his box after the bluebirds had starting building their nest.
Sparrows have been known to kill adults, to kill baby bluebirds, and to take the eggs out of the nest. Sparrows are very territorial once they have bonded with a bird box.
But, there are things you can do to try and get sparrows to stay away from a bluebird box.
A "sparrow spooker" is one way.  Basically, you need material brushing the top of the bluebird box.  The best material to use is iridescent ribbon.  I found a kids balloon and cut it into strips.  It is important that the ribbons be iridescent, or metallic if iridescent is not available.  Tin foil has been known to work per the website.

Sparrow spooker. C.LaytonSparrow spooker drawing by Bet Zimmerman

Bluebirds are unique.  There was a steep population decline of Eastern Bluebirds.  There is a super long history at  A summary is as follows:
In the 1940s, Bluebirds nearly became extinct.  Climate issues, changes in habitat and the introduction of the house sparrow and starling have affected bluebird numbers.  House sparrows will go in and take the eggs or pierce them.  "Changes in the bluebird population over time have been associated with a variety of factors. Probably the most significant factors in population decline were introduction of the House Sparrow and EUST, pesticide use, and loss of habitat. Humans continue to develop open space, introduce non-native plants and animals (including cavity-nesting birds like Conures), and impact the climate."
The good news is that there have been numerous campaigns to save the bluebird, including installation of thousands of bluebird houses and bluebird trails.  Their numbers have recovered significantly!


Adam Jones said...

Great looking birds. Wish we got them here in the UK.

Linda said...

I did not know about this! Interesting!

Margaret Adamson said...

I agree with Adam. Tey are so beautiful. Have a great week ahead.

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