House sparrows are often called flying rats because they compete for nesting and feeding sites of other birds. It's hard to eliminate them, but you can take steps to reduce their numbers.
Radio interview source: Bill Thompson, Bird Expert
Finches, cardinals, and woodpeckers are pesky birds, but are often more welcomed than sparrows.
Bird expert Bill Thompson says sparrows are a non-native species. They were brought to the United States in the 1800s to control insects, and their populations exploded. Sparrows are very aggressive, competing with native birds for food and nesting boxes.
If they're taking over your bird feeders, Thompson recommends choosing the style of feeder and the feed you put in it carefully.
"They will eat black oil sunflower seed, but they don't prefer it," he says. "They really prefer things like cracked corn, and mixed seed scattered on the ground. First thing is to feed in tube feeders with short little perches. Don't feed in hopper feeders or platform feeders, don't put any food on the ground. And when you see house sparrows at your feeders, tap on the window and make them go away. They are very wary birds, and where they're hassled, they will quickly go find somewhere else to go."
Sparrows are real bullies and will kick other birds such as purple martins or bluebirds out of a nesting box. If you like to put up bird houses, Thompson says to be strategic with location.
"Put your nest box out in the open," says Thompson. "Not along the edge of the woods, not near any buildings, as far out in the wide open area as you can. That's less appealing to house sparrows. There are certain kinds of housing that let more light in, for example bird houses that have slot openings instead of round openings. That lets more light in, and house sparrows really prefer to nest in a dark enclosure."
Other measures you can take to reduce their numbers include covering all sources of grain or food, and closing up small openings on buildings. Nest removal can also be effective.
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