Non-Lethal Starling and Sparrow Elimanation

Welcome to the internet's gathering place for Purple Martin enthusiasts
Post Reply
Bernie Nikolai
Posts: 402
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 7:44 pm
Location: Edmonton, Alberta

While I aggressively trap and rid my colonies of sparrows, starlings are no longer a problem since I switched to all SREH entrances and added a couple of tilting repeating traps with round holes. Since the traps are besides trees, I have yet to catch a martin in one, but they are deadly on starlings who first try the SREH, then move on to the traps.

But there are some areas where you just can't catch and kill starlings and sparrows. For example a school, or perhaps in the yard of someone philosophically opposed to killing birds. My sister is an example of this. No amount of showing her photos of sparrow or starling damage to martin nests or martin young has any effect. "Its just nature" she says, "and I won't kill any sparrows or starlings". Any sermon I've given on invasive bird species causing the near extinction of some native birds by taking over their nesting cavities has zero effect on her. She just says "I have a purple martin colony because I love birds, I don't want to kill them".

But there is a way to still control starlings and sparrows, without killing or trapping them, that does work from what I have seen. Not as well as trapping or shooting, but the methods do work. Here they are:

Non lethal Starling control:
The best way in my opinion to control starlings is to use only SREH (starling resistant entrances). While I know of two large successful colonies here in Alberta where large compartment housing with round holes are used, both colonies have one thing in common. The owners are retired and enjoy spending many hours on a daily basis monitoring their colonies and eliminating sparrows and starlings with traps and or pellet guns. For most of us this is not a viable option, so SREH are the way to go, unless you have no starlings in your area (rare, but it does happen).

But if you have round entrance holes and starlings nesting, here is a way that works to rid yourself of the starling pair. SIMPLY SMASH THE EGGS OF STARLING PAIR AND LEAVE THE SMASHED EGGS IN THE NEST. Every time I have tried this in the past, the starlings eat the eggshells, and vanish within 24-48 hours. Mind you, you might get different pair of starlings and will need to repeat the process in a few days.

It seems in the bird world breaking eggs says "I'm stronger, tougher, and meaner than you are, so get out now!" I would say this method has worked 100% of the time for me and friends who have tried it.

Non lethal Sparrow Control:
If you use the exact same method for sparrow control as I described above for starlings, it simply won't work. All that happens is the sparrows rebuild another layer up and over the broken eggs that you smashed, lay more eggs, and on it goes. If you rip out their nest 10 times, they rebuild 11 times. But there is a way that works well....

For sparrows you carefully remove the entire nest, which usually easily comes out in a giant wad of grass. You then carefully remove the small speckled eggs from the centre of the nest, replace them on the bare floor where the nest used to be, and break them. They are tiny, only about the size of a small fingernail, make no mess when they are broken, and within 24 hours the eggs mysteriously vanish (no doubt eaten by the sparrows themselves) and the sparrow pair leaves. Again, you may well have to repeat the process several times with subsequent different sparrow pairs, but this method has worked for me 100% in quickly ridding myself of the nesting sparrow pair.

I was concerned about "sparrow revenge syndrome" where the enraged male sparrow then breaks the eggs of the martins in adjoining nests. It just hasn't happened. I'm not saying it won't happen, just that it hasn't yet happened to me or any folks I know who have tried this method. It may not be all that common. But if you are concerned, make sure the martins haven't laid eggs yet, or that the eggs have hatched and the parents are always watching their young.

Again, the best is to use SREH for starlings, and to trap/shoot the sparrows/starlings aggressively. But if you are ever in a position where you are unable to do so, the above two methods do work, and in my experiments, they have worked very well in eliminating a nesting sparrow or starling pair.
He who harbors the nesting bird shall have health and happiness all the year
Posts: 823
Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 1:24 pm
Location: Florida/Tallahassee


Thank you for sharing this. I did not know that there was a difference in the way starlings and sparrows would react to the smashed eggs.

Posts: 335
Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2008 8:18 am
Location: Georgetown, DE

Bernie thanks for stating your non lethal method. Its good to know there is an alternative if the pressure gets to much from the home crowd.
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri May 28, 2004 10:23 am
Location: Tennesse,Memphis
Martin Colony History: Started tying in 2001 finally got 3 pair in 2003. Since then I had a steady increase to the 34 pair I now host in 2 Watersedge Suites 1 Trendsetter,and 12 plastic gourds.

Thanks for the info Bernie,I will definatly try this at my remote colony, Ample Acres, down in Mississippi. Since I can't be there to trap and shoot on a regular basis I am always looking for a better way to control the SS. Lots of luck this .
Tenth year as a landlord. Started with 9 pair the second year housing was up ,2004. Now have 32 pair here in town, and 38 pair at the farm. Life is truly good
Posts: 1931
Joined: Tue May 17, 2005 6:42 pm
Location: Florida/Pompano Beach
Martin Colony History: I moved to South Florida, from Delaware, in August of 2015.

I will have 2 MSS-8 houses, with Excluder entrances, here on my condo grounds. This season I will also have two Deluxe Gourd Racks with 24 Excluder Gourds with Modified Excluder entrances. In our condo development, along the lake in a different section, I have 8 Excluder Gourds hanging from 84 inch Shepherd's Hooks with predator guards.

At Quiet Waters Park, nearby in Deerfield Beach, I care for a Deluxe Gourd Rack with 12 TVG's. I also care for a Deluxe Gourd rack with 12 Excluder gourds with Modified Excluder entrances.

At another local park, Tradewinds Park at Coconut Creek, care for a Trendsetter 12, 5 gourds rack with 60 Excluder gourds with Modified Excluder Entrances and 1 Deluxe Gourd Rack with 12 Troyer Vertical Gourds with wing guards over the Conley II to keep out smaller starlings.

Sounds like good advice. Will try it if I have any HS problem this year. (That is almost like saying, "I will mow the lawn if it turns green this year!") :-)
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

So far (knock on wood) we have been able to trap sparrows before eggs were laid. What I do is clip the tailfeathers off the sparrow clear down to the nubs.

This does not kill the sparrow (we have odd looking sparrows flying around for months) but does seem to impede their interest in the gourds. I think it makes them look too odd to other sparrows to be considered as a mate, especially as the males cock their tail in display.

Mike Scully

Carlton wrote:Sounds like good advice. Will try it if I have any HS problem this year. (That is almost like saying, "I will mow the lawn if it turns green this year!") :-)
:lol: :lol: :lol:
Posts: 675
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 12:08 pm
Location: Kentucky/Shepherdsville

This is good information. I have passed your tips onto folks at my public colony. Thanks for this form of testing, and sharing your findings with all of us here.

Larry Melcher
I manage 2 public sites, and one at home, for a total of 172 cavities. Board Member / Non Profit PMCA.
Find videos that I edit for the PMCA Youtube channel at
Donnie Hurdt MN
Posts: 1717
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2004 11:14 pm
Location: North Prairie, MN

Bernie, I tried this at a local campground where my cousin Ray and I have a martin house set up. I had heard of this control method late last spring/early summer and did this in a compartment where sparrows were nesting. They diddent come back to that compartment but I dont know if they tried in another compartment because Ray and I both do nest cleanouts and we both were there once or twice a week. Will see what happens this summer and try to keep a record of nest cleanouts in what compartments somewhere at the site.
Thanks for posting this though, a lot of people will benifit from your information. :)
PMCA member and Martin fanatic....
2011 A pair of subbies fledged three young but none returned in 2012 :-(
2015 One Pair of subbies came and stayed a few nits but got chased away by Bluebirds and Tree swallows. :-(
2017 0ne pair of subbies nested and fledged 4 young
2018 Tree Swallows AGAIN chased away any martins that wanted to nest :evil:
2019 Same old story................ :-(
Post Reply