INTRODUCTION – NEW TO BLUEBIRDS

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  • #27682
    AIH
    Participant

      Hello forum. I’m just getting started. I have bluebirds visiting my yard to gather nesting material and to hunt for bugs. I see them all year. I was curious and started reading, one thing led to another, and I setup a nest box about two weeks ago. Unfortunately, house sparrows have been trying to use it. Not knowing any better (but I’m learning) I removed the nesting material, but the birds would keep at it. The other day I removed the nesting material and within an hour or two they had built it back bigger than before. I’ve now plugged the opening. And I’ve taken down the platform bird feeders I’ve been using for a few years.

      The male sparrow continued to visit the box for a while after I plugged the opening. He would look at it, appearing to be studying the problem. Now they seem to have moved on. I’m contemplating my next steps, whether to unplug the opening after a week or two, see what happens, or keep the opening plugged until Fall or Winter.

      I don’t plan to put the feeders back out unless or until I figure out how to feed other birds but not attract house sparrows.

      It was searching for ideas on discouraging the house sparrows that led me to Bluebirdnut. I found the reference at the North American Bluebird Society website. I’m here to learn.

      By the way, I’m located near the coast in the Florida Panhandle.

      #27683
      tamsea
      Moderator

        Hi AIH. Welcome!
        House Sparrows are a constant battle that might lessen in time but they never go away. What you need is a Van Ert trap. It’s a trap you put inside your nest box as needed. https://vanerttraps.com/
        You let a house sparrow claim a box. Sometimes I even let them start building. Then you insert the trap on screws you placed in the front panel of the box earlier. After you trap the house sparrow you have to eliminate it. That’s the hard part.
        I had so many HOuse Sparrows that I had to also buy a repeating trap. Now my numbers are way down.
        We can help you through this process.
        You can also buy the trap on Amazon but it’s more expensive there.

        Tammy

        #27684
        AIH
        Participant

          Thanks.

          My nextdoor neighbor has had a nest box several years now and has nesting bluebirds. When I talked to her about setting up a nest box myself and mentioned I was worried about sparrows, she said she has never had a sparrow problem. There is a clue there, but I haven’t figured it out yet. (She has a recycled plastic box. Mine is cedar. I’m wondering if the sparrows avoid the plastic boxes. I’ve read about a PVC box discouraging sparrows.)

          Edited to add: I’m aware of the issue of spacing between nest boxes and that line of sight can be a factor. There is a tall privacy fence and tall shrubs between us. I can’t see her nesting box from my yard. I’m hoping that will make a difference and the bluebirds won’t have an issue with nesting boxes in neighboring yards. But will see how it works out.

          • This reply was modified 2 months ago by AIH.
          #27686
          TimC
          Participant

            Welcome AIH. I hope you get it figured out. I have heard that House Sparrows dislike the Gilbertson PVC boxes though we don’t have many House Sparrows around here to test that theory. They are plentiful in town though. You might want to give the PVC version a try. They are fairly easy to build; the most challenging part is making the oval entrance hole. I do that with a 1 3/8″ hole saw. Much safer than a Forstner drill bit.

            One thing I learned this spring at the Michigan Bluebird Soc Fest is that line of sight is very important. Bluebirds are territorial. However, one “expert” speaker qualified that theory with his theory that even if the Blues can’t directly see the other Bluebird house, if it is within the recommended 100 yards they still know that the nest box is there and often will defend the territory regardless if line of sight is blocked.

            This is a big ask… ask your neighbor if they will to move their EBB nest box farther away from your potential location after a brood has fledged. You would do likewise; locating yours as far from their nest box as possible. In a residential neighborhood that might not be possible. Or, ask your neighbor to relocate it after a fledge so that you can view their box as well. But, I know, some neighbors!

            Another option is to ask a local authority if you could set up a small Bluebird trail on public property. Municipal parks, golf courses, cemeteries, schools, etc. are good locations. A trail can be two or more nest boxes. When I located my trails I paired boxes so Tree Swallows and Bluebirds would not fight over one box. Well, they will argue for sure but once they have established who is the boss (they both are) they will settle down and co-exist. A trail will get you out moving on a regular basis and you might find it fun to do routine walks on the trail. You can find out more about EBB trails on the braw.org website (my state’s org.) or michiganbluebirds.org.

            Tim C. WI/MI border.

            #27687
            AIH
            Participant

              @TimC thanks for the response and ideas.

              Right now, I’m just figuring out if what I have is going to work. I’m in a residential lot without the space to move around that would make a difference. If it turns out there is conflict between the birds, I’ll take my box down.

              The trail idea is perhaps a project for later.

              #27706
              AIH
              Participant

                Update: It has been a week or two or three since I took down the feeders and plugged the opening in the nest box. I opened the next box around a week ago. No house sparrows. They appear to have moved on. No bluebirds, however.

                I’ve noticed only one bluebird lately. It perched on the wooden privacy fence and dropped down to the yard to grab something, then back to the fence, then flew off. I’m certain this was one of the pair nesting next door. But I’ve seen more regular activity than I’m seeing now. I wonder if the issue is the pair next door chasing away all the other bluebirds right now. (And what this mean for my nest box attempt?)

                #27708
                phillyblues
                Participant

                  I agree with Tammy. Van ert is a literal life saver. I have seen bideos where people set up cardboard house sparrow boxes just for easier trapping and temporary mounting. At minimum, by trapping you save your neighbors bluebirds and or their babies from getting killed. It is only a matter of time. I trap all year round and it made an impact allowing swallows to move into yard boxes that would otherwise be taken by the rat birds. Another trap is the ground cage trap you can bait with bread and crackers. I usually get a fee every week with that but tougher during the height of spring as they are more concerned with nesting. But trapping over the off season with the cage and van ert will make things easier in the spring and summer. Need any tips let me know.

                  #27721
                  tamsea
                  Moderator

                    AIH. I think the privacy fence will help with you getting a pair but they are very territorial so it could still keep you from getting a pair.
                    House Sparrows are so adaptable. I think they will nest anywhere. I don’t think the plastic box has anything to do with her lack of problems. Do you have a lot of house sparrows in your backyard?
                    Does she monitor her box? Does she check the eggs and babies once a week until they are too old? If not, she wouldn’t really know if there was an issue. If she does do that….maybe she just doesn’t have house sparrows in her backyard…yet. If there are house sparrows in your neighborhood she may be safe now but eventually she will have an issue.

                    If you don’t get bluebirds you could get chickadees! If you have a wide open yard with very few trees you could even get tree swallows.

                    Tammy

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