About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bluebird house that keeps out Sparrows

We successfully had bluebirds nesting in our bluebird house twice. Unfortunately after that the house sparrows have been trying to invade our birdhouse and chase the bluebirds every time they get close to it. Do you know if sparrows would build their nest in a Peterson's bluebird house?

How to Deter Sparrows from your Bluebird Houses

One frequently asked question in the spring is how to keep sparrows away from bluebird boxes. House Sparrows are very clever and very persistent. You must repeatedly remove any nests that sparrows have built and leave the clean out door of the house open until the sparrows give up guarding the house.

The Peterson's Bluebird House, designed by Dick Peterson of Brooklyn Center, MN is a relatively new design that mimics natural woodpecker nests, a bluebird’s preferred nesting choice. It has an oval-shaped opening, narrow width and the small floor size to expedite nest completion. But I don’t think I would call it sparrow resistant.

The only house I’ve found to deter sparrows some of the time is the Slot Box nest.  The Slot Box design, as the name suggests, has a small slot below the roof for birds to enter instead of a round or oval hole. According to research at the University of Kentucky, bluebirds will use a slot entrance while sparrows prefer the round opening. In addition, sparrows don't like these shallower boxes and bluebirds don't seem to mind. Another advantage, is that the slot design makes it much easier for bluebirds to escape from the house in case a house sparrow enters to attack the bluebird. However field experience has shown that sparrows can adapt to many nesting locations and the slot box won’t deter all sparrows.
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If a sparrow is staking out one of your bluebird boxes, clear out the nest and open the box for a few days until the male sparrow leaves. If a bluebird family has already started to make a house and sparrows are harassing them you can put up a sparrow spooker. Basically once the bluebirds are committed to a nesting site you can hang shiny flutter ribbon above the birdhouse (you can find this "scare tape" at our stores). Studies have shown that certain bird species, including house sparrows, will not fly under the ribbon. For more detailed plans to make your own sparrow spooker, click HERE to visit the very informative Sialis.org website.

Another possibility is to put two bluebird boxes back to back or within a few feet of each other. Bluebirds defend large feeding territories around their nests from other bluebirds. Experts recommend that bluebird boxes be spaced at least 300' apart. However when you pair bluebird houses within 10 feed of each other, it is possible to get a bluebird in one and a Tree Swallow in the other. Together the birds can coexist and battle any predators or interloping sparrows. More information on this technique can be found HERE.

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