artisan's unique birdhouse boutique 866.478.8265
artisan's unique birdhouse boutique 866.478.8265
September 20, 2020 4 min read
"We are Cindy and Jim Henderson. We live in northern Virginia. Last year we moved to a house on a pond where we enjoy nature, esp. the birds. This story is about our trials and tribulations with bird houses as told via our community’s website. I titled my messages, On Aldie Pond.
We had a visitor today just off of our deck. A gorgeous Blue Bird! I headed to the basement and dug out a wooden Bluebird house that we had picked up at an estate sale before our move. Quick research determined that a tree beside our bedroom window would be an ideal location because I could mount it about five feet high and there is a tree within ten feet that could be used by the fledged chicks when they start learning to fly. Plus, we could peek at the progress through our closed blinds.
What a morning! Waking in a cold house - Our furnace is out and the part won't come in until tomorrow. BUT what should happen as we looked outside- the Blue Bird house we hung on a tree next to our bedroom has a Blue Bird couple setting up house.
Wow! Really windy these last two days. I may have mentioned this before, but we have had a Blue Bird couple put nesting material into our Blue Bird house and now they are bringing bugs. We are hoping to see little heads peeking out any week now.
There is great sadness in the Henderson household today. We saw a House Sparrow coming out of the Bluebird box. Panicked, we opened the box and found all of the baby bluebirds dead. We are devastated. I didn't know this, but the English Sparrows of my youth are now known as House Sparrows. I don't know why they changed the name. They were brought to the US by the English and they aren’t even real sparrows.
I read on Bluebird sites that House Sparrows kill Bluebirds (adults and babies) inside their nest just because they can- territorial. The articles also said that they are an invasive species and you can destroy their nests and destroy the birds. I’d have no problem doing this at after seeing the carnage up close.
We just ordered a sparrow shield and sparrow chaser from the Michigan Bluebird Society (also called sparrow spookers). The first is supposed to help keep sparrows from nesting in the house before a Bluebird finds it. The second tends to spook sparrows after the Bluebirds have laid eggs.
We saw that the House Sparrows were still interested in the wooden house after we removed the Bluebird nest and occupants, so we decided to leave it open until the sparrows forgot about it. When I opened the door a pile of grass and feathers fell out. Yuck! The sparrows had set up house overnight. That ruined the idea of using the Sparrow shield on the wooden house since they were now used to flying in and out.
We decided to leave it open for now and we ordered a Gilbertson Bluebird House from the Birdhouse Chick that House Sparrows “don't like." We also ordered some ½ inch conduit pipe and ½ inch rebar to mount the house on.
I was mowing my back yard today and getting swarmed by swallows! My only guess is that they know mowing causes bugs to fly up from the grass. Their flight skills are amazing. They are the fighter pilots of the bird world. They catch hundreds of bugs as they dogfight through the air. (You will understand this shortly.)
We got our new bluebird house, sparrow shield and sparrow chaser. I still need to build a critter shield to prevent snakes and other climbers from getting up the pole. I built the shield out of some dryer piping and hardware cloth that I happened to have in the basement. I also smoothed the ½ inch conduit pipe with steel wool and waxed it. We’re not tree mounting this time and moving it further from the house. We can watch this one from our kitchen table. We put it up on the path side and further away from our house. Anyway, if you are walking the path and your kids ask, then you can explain this strange contraption to them.
We are slowly getting educated about bluebird houses. Since the birdhouse is further from our house and trees it is in direct sunlight and we are worried about it getting to hot in the summer so we ordered some solar screening which is supposed to help keep the house cool. No one ever gives you all the information you need in one place. LOL!
We woke to a surprise this morning. The Bluebird house that I just put up yesterday has blue birds taking up residence. Not Bluebirds, but Tree Swallows. Maybe the next best thing. The male is brilliant blue and they eat mosquitoes!!
Here is hoping that we have all of the right elements to see little Tree Swallows flying around in a few weeks!"
Since this article is finally being published (in September)- The Henderson's did see swallow babies fledge from the Gilbertson. Their sad experience with House Sparrows better prepares them for next spring. Armed with the tools and knowledge... the new nest box should prove fruitful next season since the spooker worked for tree swallows!
The bluebird pair gave up and left after house sparrows attacked the nest and killed the babies. Bluebird landlords must be committed to house sparrow control by one method or a combination of; installing a sparrow spooker, removing eggs and/or trapping these invasive birds. Too much trouble? Best not to entice blues from the start!
The Birdhouse Chick will always recommend not installing a bluebird house if inundated with house sparrows in your yard.
Always opt for pole- or post-mounted birdhouses as opposed to mounting on a tree.
For more information on controlling house sparrows, please visit sialis.org.
Check youtube for making a baffle (that uses hardware cloth to deter snakes).
Also search sparrow spooker to make your own contraption fairly easily.