do sparrows use bird boxes

This post has been revised with breakthrough information on eliminating House Sparrows from your nesting boxes. It was initially posted in 2017, and revised on 3/6/2023.

The House Sparrow is perhaps the most adaptable and prolific bird species on the planet. Often called English Sparrow, its scientific name Passer domesticus is Latin for small, active bird belonging to the house. It is native to Europe and has spread to all corners of the world. Its adaptation follows human civilization. Where there are people, there are House Sparrows.

House Sparrows are about six inches in length and are cavity nesters. They are about the same size as Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. That’s why they all compete for nest boxes. Make certain your boxes have an entry hole no larger than one and a half inches in diameter. If larger, another invasive, non-native, European bird, the European Starling, will invade the box.

Where Birds Come to Life

do sparrows use bird boxes

Note that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not protect European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) or House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), and that it is illegal to harm or harass any native species, including their nests and eggs. The methods outlined below are solely intended to control these species.

The term “invasive exotic species” refers to introduced species that gain enough advantages from their new habitat to gradually expand their range of population. Currently acknowledged as one of the primary threats to global biodiversity are invasive species In the 19th century, European starlings and house sparrows were brought to North America. These days, they can be found permanently all over the United States and Canada, usually in close proximity to areas where people live and are disturbed (e g. cities and suburbs) or locations like barns or granaries that have a consistent supply of food Both species nest in gutters, downspouts, dense shrubs, and bushes, but they also make quick use of nest boxes when they are available. They outcompete natural cavity-nesting birds, and when they take over an occupied nest site, they have been known to kill nestlings and adults as well as destroy nests and eggs. See these pages for additional details on the biology of these species.

The House Sparrow is Not Native to North America

This bird is not native to North America. It is an aggressive species that will take over the nesting sites, territories, and food sources of native birds. Therefore, it is an invasive, non-native species that is very difficult to manage. For a more detailed description of the bird, go to this link at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

House Sparrows Attack and Kill Native Nesting Birds

Years ago, when I opened one of our nest boxes, I discovered a House Sparrow perched on her eggs. She quickly flew away. Something was unusual. She constructed her nest atop the nest of a tree sparrow. I took down the nest of the aggressor, threw it to the ground, and crushed the eggs. Underneath the nest was a dead female Tree Swallow. The attacking beak of the aggressor had crushed her head. The Tree Swallow’s eggs were still intact. How horrible a death.

For more information on House Sparrow attacks and management of this invasive, aggressive bird, visit the Sialis website; they have much more detail.

FAQ

Will sparrows nest in a bird box?

Give House Sparrows somewhere to raise their chicks with a nest box or two. House sparrows are in trouble – the UK population has halved for reasons that we don’t fully understand. However, there are things you can do to help. Putting up a nest box on your house walls is a great way to start.

What kind of bird houses do sparrows like?

Sparrows prefer a nesting chamber of about 125 cubic inches (5-by-5-by-5 inches) with a 1 1/2-inch diameter access hole and a perch 4 or 5 inches long. The dimensions of this house are 23 inches high by 11 1/2 inches wide and 6 3/4 inches deep.

How big should a birdhouse be for a sparrow?

Bird
Hole diameter (inches)
Floor size (inches)
Flycatchers
2
6 x 6
Hairy Woodpecker
6 x 6
House Finch
2
6 x 6
House Sparrow
1¼–2
4 x 4 to 5 x 5

What is the best nesting box for sparrows?

A standard, small hole-fronted nest box, with an entrance hole of 32 mm diameter, works best for this species. House Sparrows may make two or three breeding attempts during the breeding season. CONSTRUCTION The use of FSC-approved timber, at least 15 mm in thickness, will give this nest box longevity.