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.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Common Bird House Problems

How to Keep Sparrows out of my Wren/Chickadee House

House Sparrows prefer a 1 ½ inch entrance hole. If you purchased a house with a larger hole or it has been expanded by squirrels or other birds, we have metal portal protectors. Wild Birds Unlimited’s round 1-1/8" and 1-1/4" metal portals are suitable for the chickadee and wren houses and prevents sparrows from entering the house.

How to Keep Raccoons from your Birdhouse

If your bird house is on a pole, we have raccoon baffles that you can put around metal poles or 4”x4” wooden posts. This will stop all squirrels and raccoons from climbing to the house. It won’t stop them from dropping down from a nearby tree.

To protect the birdhouse itself from unwanted predators reaching in and stealing eggs, attach the Screw Mount Birdhouse Guardian. These will prevent squirrels, raccoons, opossum and cats from bending their arms to reach the resident birds. Crows, Blue Jays and grackles can't get their bodies through the guardian and are also deterred. I have the decorative version on a house that was being raided by the neighbor’s cat. So far it has stopped the cat from reaching in and destroying the nest.

How to Deter Sparrows from your Bluebird Box

This is the most frequently asked question in the spring. 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.

If a bluebird family has already started to make a house and sparrows are harassing them 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 close together, 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.


cindyzlogic said...

Very informative! I haven't started nest boxes yet, but would like to try a Wren and Bluebird house.

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

Oh, you must! If you have bluebirds or wrens in your area I would definitely recommend putting up houses. They are fascinating to watch.

Anonymous said...

wrens have the prettiest little voices and are so fun to watch!

Anonymous said...

Just today, I had Wrens building a nest in a house I just put up yesterday, and watched as a sparrow bullied the wrens and was pulling of a Home Invasion. I went online and found this site giving me the information I needed to stop them. I found a piece of left over floor board, drilled a 1" hole, went out to the bird house and installed it on the inside of the door. Then we watched as the sparrow made 2 attempts to get in and fail. Then the wrens came back minutes later and fit perfectly through the new hole.. I've seen this happen to all my other bird houses and was fed up with the sparrows home invasion tactics..

Anonymous said...

I have hard a very difficult time this year with my Chickadee/Wren house. I have a pair of chickadees who often stay in the large evergreen in my front yard. This year I decided to put up a house for them, but the only place I could put it was the backyard. Fine, they took to it within a week and started a nest. A few days later I noticed a tail sticking out of the hole. It was a dead Chickadee, looked as if it was pecked to death. There were fragments of eggs in the nest. I cleaned out the box.
Now a couple weeks later there is another nest in the box, and a pair of Chickadees who are trying desperately to guard it. I don't think there's any eggs or young in there yet, but there is a built nest. I'm just sitting here watching these House Sparrows harass and fight the chickadees. It is heartbreaking to watch.
I found this article on your blog by searching for a remedy to this. I know that House Sparrows are a very aggressive species and often kill others trying to nest, especially bluebirds, etc. I just don't know what to do. I've considered taking down the bird house but I hate to do that, I am trying hard to make my small yard into an oasis for birds. Planted bushes and flowers for them, hung feeders with different types of seeds, and there are two bird baths. This is the first year I've put up a house. I was hoping to see the Chickadees raise their young, but the House Sparrows are so aggressive! They are constantly trying to enter the bird house and are sitting on top of it as if keeping the Chickadees away. They are fighting constantly in the trees and vines surrounding the bird house.
I am trying to figure out what the best thing is to do. I remember my aunt, years ago, saying how much trouble she had with her bluebird houses. I've not been lucky enough to see bluebirds in my area but I was really hoping to give a home to at least one pair of Chickadees this year. I don't know if I can bear to see another Chickadee dead because of a house I put up! Any advice is welcome to help these Chickadees nest successfully!

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

House Sparrows prefer a 1 ½ inch entrance hole. If you purchased a house with a larger hole or it has been expanded by squirrels or other birds, we have metal portal protectors. Wild Birds Unlimited’s round 1-1/8" and 1-1/4" metal portals are suitable for the chickadee and wren houses and prevents sparrows from entering the house.

Angel Butdorf said...

I have had a wren nesting box for a couple of years now and have enjoyed watching the wrens prepare their nest and have their families at least two times a season. This year the sparrows have taken over the box. I took it down and put a wood piece over the opening with a 1 inch hold and the female sparrow was still able to get in and out.

Can the hold be made smaller for the wrens? If so, what is the smallest hole we can have?