How to Keep Sparrows Out of Bluebird Boxes

Are house sparrows taking over your bluebird boxes, leaving little room for the native bluebirds to nest? Discover effective strategies to protect bluebirds and prevent sparrows from invading their nesting sites.

The number of house sparrows is going down. But they can still hurt other birds like the bluebird. They are good at finding places to live, even in cities.

Why House Sparrows Are a Problem

House sparrows, an invasive species, create big problems for those who want to protect bluebirds. They often fight over nesting spots with bluebirds. Their aggressive actions can be harmful and even deadly for other bird species.

They've been known to kill birds, break eggs, and take over nesting areas, like bluebird boxes. Their bad behavior can seriously harm the environment. It leads to fewer native birds being around.

People who look after bluebird houses have a tough time because house sparrows keep trying to use them. House sparrows are now common across North America and the world. They came to North America in the 1850s and quickly became a big issue for farmers.

It's important to stop house sparrows from using bluebird houses. This helps more bluebirds to grow and keeps the native bird population up.

Talking with others online shows that many see house sparrows as a huge problem. These discussions have brought out many ways to keep them away. Learning from these experiences can help prevent sparrows from taking over bluebird boxes.

House sparrows are good at adapting and having lots of babies. A female sparrow can lay three to five eggs, watch over them for 11-14 days, and then they hatch. The babies leave the nest after about two weeks. They can have up to four families in a year.

Even though they mainly eat seeds, sparrows also eat bugs and trash, which helps them survive well and spread out. They usually stay within a 1.5-2 mile area.

To keep sparrows out of bluebird houses, setting up the boxes in smart ways, blocking openings, and using certain types of boxes can help. These steps aim to make the nesting area less appealing to sparrows, so they go somewhere else.

For a stronger approach, checking the bluebird boxes often can let you get rid of male house sparrows. This way, you help protect the bluebirds by reducing sparrows' disturbance. Trapping sparrows inside the boxes is another way to help bluebirds thrive.

Monitor and Remove Sparrow Nests

Checking bluebird boxes often and getting rid of sparrow nests helps keep bluebird homes safe. Sparrows can push out bluebirds since they're more dominating and compete for the same spaces.

House sparrows arrived from Europe in 1852 and have made themselves at home in North America. They're found nearly everywhere here, but their numbers are going down. This is because they fight with bluebirds over places to nest.

To keep bluebirds safe, check their nesting spots for signs of sparrow activity. Sparrow nests look messy and are not as well-done as those of bluebirds. If you find straw or other rough materials, take them out right away. This action will make sparrows look for another place to nest.

House Sparrow Nesting Facts
Bluebird Box Monitoring Tips
House Sparrows may produce up to four broods in a breeding season
Regularly check bluebird boxes for sparrow nests
Each pair of House Sparrows lays three to five white/brown speckled eggs
Look for signs of sparrow presence, such as coarse materials
Male House Sparrows construct dome-shaped nests of coarse materials
Promptly remove any nest materials that indicate sparrow use

Keeping sparrow nests at bay by checking and removing them helps prevent bluebird territory takeovers. This method is key to stop sparrows and protect where bluebirds make their homes.

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Sparrows eat seeds, bugs, and trash. Limiting their food by not using cracked corn and millet around bluebird boxes can help. Sparrows prefer feeding on the ground or in the open, meaning they'll leave if you remove their favorites.

It's okay to get rid of house sparrow nests since they are not from here and have no protection under the law. Removing their nests protects bluebirds and keeps their nesting areas safe from the intruders.

Scaring House Sparrows Off

Scaring off house sparrows is a good way to protect bluebird boxes. You can use scare tactics like hawk decoys or sparrow spookers to startle the birds. Do this after a female bluebird lays her first egg to avoid scaring the bluebirds, too.

House sparrows are a big problem because they bully other birds. They fight with and sometimes kill bluebirds, purple martins, orioles, and swallows. To protect these birds, it's important to keep house sparrows away from the boxes.

There are a few ways to discourage house sparrows. Watching the nest boxes often can help you act quickly. Also, using hawk decoys and sparrow spookers can scare the sparrows. Plus, not using cheap bird food that house sparrows like can help keep them away.

Using smaller nest boxes can also work well. House sparrows prefer bigger boxes, so smaller ones make it harder for them to claim. This helps protect bluebirds and other birds that use the boxes for nesting.

Sparrow Scare Examples

  • Hawk Decoys: Realistic hawk decoys near the bluebird boxes can scare off sparrows.
  • Sparrow Spookers: These have hanging strings or ribbons that scare sparrows with movement.

Sparrow Intrusion Prevention Tips

  • Check nest boxes often for sparrow activity.
  • Use scare tactics like hawk decoys and sparrow spookers.
  • Avoid cheap bird food that house sparrows like.
  • Think about using smaller nest boxes.

Avoid Cheap Bird Food

To stop house sparrows from nesting, don't use cheap bird food. They love low-cost grain like cracked corn and millet. Choose better bird food to keep sparrows away from your feeders.

House sparrows are bold and often win against bluebirds. This is why it's key to stop sparrows early on. Doing this helps protect native birds from the sparrows.

By avoiding cheap bird food, you can make a big difference in keeping sparrows out of bluebird houses. House sparrows like certain foods, such as cracked corn, millet, sunflower seeds, and bread. Don't put these items in your feeders to reduce sparrows' attraction.

Try feeding sparrows Nyjer seed, sunflower seeds, or safflower seeds instead of cracked corn and millet. These options are better for other native birds and less liked by sparrows.

Choose feeders sparrows don't like, such as tube feeders with short perches. Sparrows find these feeders harder to use. This can help make your feeders less appealing to them.

Cheap Bird Food
Preferred by House Sparrows
Cracked corn
Black oil sunflower seeds

Try a Smaller Nest Box

Want to keep sparrows away from bluebird boxes? Use a smaller nest box. House sparrows like big boxes. So, a smaller one makes it hard for them to enter.

A smaller hole keeps house sparrows out. This way, bluebirds and other small birds can nest safely. It makes the area better for bluebirds.

When picking a birdhouse, choose carefully. It should be safe and clean, with no dangerous chemicals. Make sure it fits the needs of the birds you want around. This helps attract bluebirds and keeps off sparrows.

Benefits of Using a Smaller Nest Box:
1. Deters House Sparrows: House sparrows prefer larger nest boxes, so a smaller size can discourage them from nesting and taking over the space.
2. Protects Native Bird Species: By preventing house sparrows from dominating the nest box, you create a safer habitat for bluebirds and smaller native birds.
3. Preserves Nesting Areas: Bluebirds and other native birds can continue to use the smaller nest boxes without competition from house sparrows.

Place Nest Box in an Open Area

To stop sparrows from nesting in bluebird houses, put them in open areas. Sparrows like hiding spots, so this makes them less interested. They would rather look for areas with more cover.

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An open location means bluebirds are safer and sparrows are less likely to join them. Bluebirds feel safe where they can see around clearly. Less hiding places deter sparrows from coming closer.

Putting nest boxes in the open helps not just by protecting bluebirds. It also gives them a better chance to raise their young. Sparrows are less keen on these spots without places to stay hidden.

Help bluebirds nest well and keep sparrows away by making areas welcoming and open. Check the nest box often. Remove any sparrow nests quickly to keep bluebirds safe.

Remove or Modify Water Features

House sparrows love water features, like bird baths. To keep bluebirds safe from sparrows, tweak or get rid of these water spots. This makes them not as interesting to sparrows.

Adding stones to a birdbath is a smart move. It makes the water uneven and less deep, which is not good for sparrows. They like to drink from smooth, shallow water. Stones make it hard for them to do so.

You might also try drippers or hanging water stations. These provide a fresh water supply, which real birds prefer. House sparrows find moving water not as comfy, unlike some native birds.

Changing or taking out water features can help. It keeps house sparrows away while still offering water for local bird types.

Can You Get Rid of House Sparrows

You cannot completely get rid of house sparrows. But, it's important to manage their numbers. This way, we can protect other birds. Killing them is wrong and against the law. Instead, we should use ways to keep them away from places like bluebird boxes.

Sparrow Spookers and Nest Box Monitoring

One good way to stop sparrows from nesting in bluebird boxes is by using sparrow spookers. These are devices that surprise and scare the sparrows. They've been found to work very well, scaring off all sparrows in some cases.

To use sparrow spookers effectively, you should check the nest boxes often. Do this daily to catch sparrows before they can cause problems. But, don't check in the morning. This is when the female bluebird lays eggs. As soon as the eggs start to show, put up the spooker to keep sparrows away.

Take out the sparrow spooker after the baby birds leave. This way, sparrows don't get used to it. They won't ignore it in the future.

Proper Installation of Sparrow Spookers

When setting up sparrow spookers, make sure the mylar strips touch the roof over the hole. This makes the spooker move and shine. And check the nest box within 30 minutes. You want to make sure the parent birds are okay with it and will still look after their young.

Over 20 house sparrows in 2012 reduced to trapping 4 last year, leading to a successful breeding of 4 VG swallow boxes annually.

Protecting Native Bird Species

House sparrows are very good at living almost anywhere. They take over from other birds by fighting for the best spots. They even harm or kill these other birds.

To help native birds, we can do a few things. We should keep an eye on nest boxes. Putting up things that scare the sparrows, like fake hawks, also helps. It's good to use quality bird food that doesn't attract them. And use smaller nest boxes, so only the friendly birds can get in.

There are laws that protect birds and stop us from hunting them. These rules help keep our native bird populations safe, even though getting rid of house sparrows entirely is hard.

Selecting a Bird House

Choosing the right bird house can keep sparrows out and attract bluebirds. To pick the best one, use these tips:

  1. Easy to Clean: Pick a bird house that's simple to clean. Clean houses offer a safer spot for birds. They stop sparrows from coming because they don't stay dirty.
  2. Free of Harmful Chemicals: Go for a house without harmful chemicals. This keeps sparrows away since they avoid smelly or chemical places.
  3. Specially Designed to Deter Sparrows: Find a house made to keep sparrows out. Such bird houses may have small doors or barriers that sparrows find hard to get past.
  4. Safe and Secure Location: Place your bird house in a safe spot. Don't put it near big plants where sparrows could hide. A clear area helps birds see danger better.
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Choosing the right bird house can make bluebirds feel at home. It helps avoid conflicts with sparrows. This way, we help bluebirds and cope with the challenges sparrows bring.

Reasons to Select the Right Bird House
How to Choose the Right Bird House
Attract bluebirds
Look for easy-to-clean designs
Deter house sparrows
Avoid harmful chemicals
Ensure a healthy nesting environment
Select a sparrow-deterring design
Prevent debris build-up
Choose a safe and secure location

The Importance of Regular Maintenance

It's vital to regularly clean bluebird nest boxes. This prevents sparrows from taking over and keeps bluebirds safe. After the breeding season, removing old nesting materials is a must. It gets rid of debris and parasites harmful to birds. Plus, it stops sparrows from choosing the box again for nesting.

Studies have uncovered how vital this maintenance is. In Illinois, no big change was found in mite levels between cleaned and uncleaned nests. This shows cleaning doesn't harm mite control.

In North Carolina, 71% of Eastern Bluebirds picked cleaned boxes to re-nest. This means they prefer a tidy place. It shows how important clean boxes are to attract bluebirds and keep sparrows away.

Yet, in Kentucky, Eastern Bluebirds chose boxes with old nests. These nests helped control pests over winter. So, the clean or not to clean decision depends on location and bird needs.

Keeping nest boxes clean also stops mice from moving in. Mice can hurt nesting birds. So, cleaning out the boxes helps keep a healthy space for birds.

Regular upkeep means the best for bluebirds and less for sparrows. This is key for their protection. It's even more critical now with bird populations dropping in North America.

Bird Population Decline
Nearly 3 billion birds have been lost since 1970 in North America alone.
Bluebird Conservation Success
Eastern bluebirds, once in severe decline, have seen their populations increase due to conservation actions like the installation of nest boxes.
Wood Ducks
Wood ducks are one of the most common duck species in Pennsylvania and they nest in tree cavities near water bodies like ponds, lakes, and streams.
Kestrels, the smallest falcons in the area, use artificial nest boxes in open habitats to nest and hunt agricultural pests.
Owl Nesting
Great horned owls utilize large platform nests while species like the eastern screech owl use nest boxes in various habitat types.

Maintaining nest boxes helps birds in many ways. It's key for their safety and for inviting them back. By staying proactive, a great home for bluebirds is made. This keeps out sparrows and helps save our bird friends.


Protecting bluebird boxes from sparrows is key to keeping the bluebird population safe. It helps keep the ecosystem healthy. Strategies like checking and clearing out sparrow nests, using sparrow-spookers, and maintaining the bird boxes work well. They create a safe place for bluebirds and stop sparrows from nesting there.

After over sixteen years of working with bluebirds, we've learned a lot. It's best to place nest boxes about 200 yards apart. They should be in open spots, far from buildings to not attract house sparrows.

Boxes like the "Gilbertson" are good at keeping sparrows away. Also, avoid using cheap grain food in bird feeders. Instead, use bird seeds like black sunflower, safflower, nyger, and peanuts. This attracts songbirds, not sparrows.

Regularly check bluebird houses and remove sparrow nests quickly to stop sparrows. Sparrow-spookers, devices on top of nest boxes, can scare sparrows away. Put them up after bluebirds start nesting and take them down after baby bluebirds leave the nest.

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