Dispatching European Sparrows

Welcome to the internet's gathering place for Purple Martin enthusiasts
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:56 am
Location: Michigan, Oakland

Hello all,
Well I have been at it for the last 4 years with no luck. I had a 8 cavity North star my uncle built me but it just fell apart so this spring I erected the Troyer 10 gourd pole in the yard. Over the years I have dispatched a large number of Sparrows. This year has to be the busiest. I dispatched 5 in one day last weekend. Well, my conscience is getting the best of me knowing I am killing these small bids for the hope of getting PM's to move in and I haven't had a single bird move in. :-( They are persistent little critters so outside of shooting them and trapping them, nothing else works. Does any other landlords feel what I am feeling?
Posts: 2114
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 10:24 pm
Location: Delaware/Dover

Not me...they have detachable heads, one quick pull and it's all over, no pain or suffering they never know what happened.
~Ray~ Gingerich
1999 1pair, 2006 2 pair, 2008 2 pair,
2009 23 pair, 2010 39 pair, 2011 67 pair,
2012 115 pair, 2013 160 pair,
2014 152 pair, 2015 174 pair, 2016 178 pair
2017 187 pair, 2018 200 pair
Dan G
Posts: 399
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:52 pm
Location: PA/Bellefonte
Martin Colony History: Trying since 2014. Visitors, but no nests. Several colonies with in 6 mile radius.

I too have been trying for 4 years, and am shooting more than ever. No issues here with my conscience getting to me. Frustration is a better word. As of last night, i have eliminated 125 S & S . 81 starlings and 44 sparrows since January 1. I know it sounds like a lot, but i have been keeping track. I had 3 or 4 tree Swallows on my T-14 and gourd rack a few days ago. So i lowered it and plugged the holes.....again. (i have three nest boxes apprx. 30-40 feet away in different directions, and have pairs in all three. I raised the house Wednesday evening just before dark, and Thursday morning, there sat a starling. When i got home, i shot a sparrow too. No matter how many i dispatch, they keep coming.
Bellefonte PA
2014, 1st year-a few lookers, no nests
2015, 'Spot' SY male, here every day from 5-28 to 6-23, and several other visitors.
2016 added a perch wire between house and gourd rack.
offering 22 cavities, T-14 plus 8 gourds
2016, multiple visitors from 6-20 on. Almost daily
2017- Lots of visitors late in season.
2018- Adding another T-14. Few visitors
2019- Hopeful but stopped holding my breath
Posts: 802
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:15 am
Location: Corpus Christi Tx
Martin Colony History: 2016- didnt know anything about martins, put up an all wrong house in 2016 and had two come by and inspect all the cavities. Left soon after not to return. Learned what i could on PMCA, made adjustments and next year was sucessful.
2017- 5 pair. 15 fledged.
2018- 18 pair. 85 fledged.
2019- 17 pair. 81 fledged
2020- 25 pair. 111 fledged
Home colony: mix natural gourds, house. All SREH.
Satelite colony Oso bay preserve: 12 gourds: PMCA excluder gourds, 6 room trio mino castle with enlarged compartments.
2019: Visitors
2020: 3 pair, 11 fledged
PMCA member

Difficult when the martins haven't arrived yet, but don't think about it, just do it. when the PM do come you'll do it anyway and if you stop now it could be worse. I like birds, don't want to kill any but I picture pecked eggs and dead martins. Im going for the male sparrows.
PMCA member, believer in SREH and predator protection.
Posts: 167
Joined: Fri Jan 15, 2016 7:17 pm
Location: Topeka, KS
Martin Colony History: 2015 1 SY pair, 2 eggs destroyed by house sparrow
2016 1 ASY pair, 5 eggs, 2 hatchlings, 2 fledged
2017 1 ASY pair, 5 eggs, 5 hatchlings, 5 fledged; 1 SY pair, 4 eggs not incubated
2018 daily visitors but no takers
2019 1 SY pair, 4 eggs, 2 destroyed by House Wren, 2 hatchlings, 2 fledged
2020 1ASY pair, 5 eggs, 5 hatchlings, 5 fledged

I have to admit, I've sometimes felt bad for the pest birds. I tell my family that in my next life, God is sending me back as a sparrow :shock:

But we have seen first had what damage these birds can do. Remember, by eliminating sparrows and starlings, we are helping bluebirds and other native birds.

My husband is the terminator :lol: while my job is trimming wings, feeding and watering the bait sparrows in the ground trap.

Michelle in Topeka
Dave Duit
Posts: 1685
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2019, 54 pair with 218 fledged youngsters. 83 total compartments available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified trio metal house units, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit www.iamartin.org and join.

We all feel a little something when we have to eliminate the sparrow and starling. But, remember that the martins have one single clutch per season after traveling thousands of miles to your location. While the sparrows will have up to five clutches in a season and they have the long journey. A sparrows life span is normally 1 and 1/4 years. You are only reducing their life by a few months. After seeing the destruction starlings and sparrows can do to a colony, I have very little patience with these pests.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
Posts: 215
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2016 10:43 am
Location: Sugarcreek, Ohio
Martin Colony History: 2016 First Yr.

I'm with Gingerich on this topic....They are a pesky nuisance, that are not meant for song birds enjoyment The less we all have the better for all !! I'm of the opinion if you have Sparrows and don't want to or can't eliminate them then please don't bother with a Martin house...You will save everyone else the pain of having to try and get rid of the ones you raise.
2016 - 1st Yr. 14 Compartments 4 Active Nests 9 fledged, 2.25 Fledged per Active Nest
2017 - 2nd Yr. 36 Compartments 18 Active Nests 65 Fledged, 3.61 Fledged per Active Nest
2018 - 3rd Yr. 54 Compartments 43 Active Nests 169 Fledged, 3.93 Fledged per Active Nest
2019 - 4th Yr. 108 Compartments 67 Active Nests 209 Fledged, 3.12 Fledged per Active Nest
2020 - 5th Yr. 108 Compartments ?
Posts: 677
Joined: Tue Apr 11, 2017 11:39 am
Location: Monroe, WI

I have no idea how many sparrows I have managed to eliminate from the general population over the years but I will continue to do so, with no remorse, whatsoever. I dont' even feed them in the winter. I make sure to get feed that the birds I like want and will eat - which is not usually what sparrows like. I know I'm doing the martins (and bluebirds) a huge favor by controlling the sparrow population. We can't have it both ways - if we have sparrows, we won't have bluebirds or purple martins. It's a no brainer, as far as I'm concerned.
Billie from south central Wisconsin
Matt F.
Posts: 3894
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Nealbopper wrote:Does any other landlords feel what I am feeling?
I'm right there with you Neal.
I dispatch a large number of house sparrows each season as well.
Even though we know what we are doing is in the best interest of our native cavity nesters, it does still tug at the heartstrings from time to time.
Dispatching as quickly, and humanely as possible, while also remembering we're fighting for those that are under siege, and can't adequately fight for themselves, is what I always try to keep in mind.
Posts: 259
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:20 pm
Location: Ohio/SouthSalem

I, for one, know how hard it can be to kill these intruders. And I do still feel bad when I have to kill them. But the fact is that our native birds are defenseless against them. I have gotten rid of a lot of sparrows and starlings this spring. When I start feeling guilty I remind myself that it is no worse than spraying a wasp nest or catching a mouse in a trap. I don't consider myself heartless, and there have been times when I wonder if I'm doing wrong. I guess it's a choice that we all have to make for ourselves. The fact that I lost a female martin the other day to a starling that wasn't even nesting in the colony reinforces the choice I made. I have been, and continue shooting starlings and sparrows anywhere in my yard. I still don't like it, but I don't know how else to maintain a healthy colony of martins. Plus it helps the bluebirds and other cavity nesters. Good luck to you and your birds, Brenda
Posts: 81
Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:06 pm
Location: Central Iowa
Martin Colony History: 5 Modified Trios 10 Gourds and 1 B&B
2019 24 Pair 83 Fledged
2018 23 Pair 92 Fledged
2017 26 Pair 105 Fledged
2016 21 Pair 99 Fledged
2015 15 Pair 59 Fledged
2014 18 Pair 40 Fledged
2013 16 Pair 30 Fledged
2012 10 Pair 30 Fledged
Started in late 1980's

I have real issues with killing them. Shooting them does not bother me but I live in town and we have ordinances against that. Other ways are much more personal. That being said I have dealt with that over 100 times this year alone. I didn't like killing deer either. After one hit my pickup and about killed me I started to kill the crap out of them. You just gotta do what you do. :cry:
Project MartinWatch participants and supplemental feeding is provided. I also add heat to housing when needed.
Posts: 297
Joined: Thu May 12, 2016 11:03 am
Location: SW Ohio
Martin Colony History: Colony established May 20, 2017 after three unsuccessful years. Persistent and aggressive Tree Swallows plagued the site, but beyond learning - and practicing - to control them, was the return in 2017 of a 2016-SY-M previously unable to find a mate. As a handsome ASY-M, he brought along two females and a swagger that soon put the Tree Swallow issue to rest. As the anchor pair, he and his mate hatched all six of their eggs into fat and healthy babies into what settled in to be a three-pair, flourishing new colony with up to 11 birds total, including 3 SY-M trouble makers.

I heart birds wrote:Nealbopper,
Difficult when the martins haven't arrived yet, but don't think about it, just do it. when the PM do come you'll do it anyway and if you stop now it could be worse. I like birds, don't want to kill any but I picture pecked eggs and dead martins. Im going for the male sparrows.
. . . pecked eggs and dead Martins . . . go for the male Sparrows . . . good advice, the male English Sparrow is also easy to identify; have passed up many females because I hesitated to make certain not a Song Sparrow or Striped Sparrow. Forum posters have indicated that it's most often the male doing the Martin marauding.

Despite a scoped Benjamin .177 that's deadly accurate, ". . . his eye is on the Sparrow", often rattles around in my head, more so the older I get. :???:

2019- 19 Nesting Pair Fledged 84 babies. The Pattern is Full.
2018-ASY-M Arrived April 6, Despite Snow & Cold, Joined Soon by Mate & Two Adult Pairs, Season of 11 Nests W/48 Babies
2017-FIRST-YEAR LANDLORD! :grin: Resident SY-M from 2016 Returned (as ASY-M) on May 20. At Least 11 Resident PMs, with 13 Fledged from Three Nests and Operated a Daily Flying Circus :grin:
2016-Late-Arriving SYs, Resident Lone SY-M, Unable to Find Mate
2015 & 2014-Many Visits
Posts: 101
Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:30 pm
Location: Long Lake SD
Martin Colony History: 2006 - SY pair, unsuccessful nest attempt, 3 houses = 52 cavities

2010 - ASYM + SYF pair - male disappeared after storm, female fledged all 4 young.

2015 - Lone SYM stayed month of June...added 8 gourds = 60 cavities

2016 - 1 nesting pair (ASYM + SYF) 2/3 eggs hatched 2 young fledged.

2017 - 4 nesting pairs, 16/17 eggs hatched, 16 fledged, 16 banded - 2 banded SY returned in 2018 (12.5%), added housing: 11 houses w/gourds, 4 gourd poles = 376 cavities

2018 - 10 nesting pairs, 46/52 eggs hatched, 45 fledged, 29 banded - 3 banded SY returned in 2019 (10.3%)

2019 - 32 nesting pairs, 145/160 eggs hatched, 139 fledged - 87 banded - 12 banded SY returned in 2020 (13.8%).

2020 - 35 nesting pairs, 180/199 eggs hatched, 179 fledged - 150 banded.

I too used to feel a bit guilty when I eliminated sparrows and starlings, even though I hunt other birds (ducks, geese, pheasant, etc.) for meat. I guess the difference for me was that I consumed the game birds that I killed, but just discarded the S & S. The guilty feelings I used to have for killing S & S has been greatly diminished since I observed a male HS enter one of my blue bird/tree swallow houses a few years ago and heard a great deal of commotion inside the house. When I went to open the house the male sparrow flew out and the female tree swallow was sitting in the bottom of the house with blood dripping from her head and looking quite woozy. I picked the female out of the box and she appeared to be slowly gaining her senses again, so I put her back on her clutch of eggs. I then went in my house and got my 12 gauge shotgun (I live in a very rural area) and got revenge for the tree swallow and shot the male HS. There were other vacant blue bird houses nearby, but this sparrow wanted this particular house as his own, and nothing was going to stop him (except a barrage of BBs headed his way at 1200 feet/second!) Had I not intervened, the TS and her clutch of eggs would have been destroyed. The female TS fully recovered and the pair of TS successfully hatched and fledged their full clutch of eggs. I have only had 3 martin pairs attempt to nest at my place over the course of the past 12 years and one of the nests a number of years ago had the eggs pecked (likely by a sparrow - which I was not fully controlling at the time) and the pair of martins immediately departed after the ordeal and never returned. I had a martin pair successfully nest last year, and hope they return with friends this year (I had my first ASYM visitor yesterday!), and I am certain there will be no sparrow or starling competition at my location this season as 40 S & S already have been shot so far, and trapping of HS in my blue bird boxes begins tomorrow as I know of three sneaky HS pairs that have avoided my gunning and are starting to build their nests. I don't hate S & S (outside of the nesting season) but know controlling their numbers is a necessary part of being a martin/bluebird/tree swallow landlord. If I ever get a guilty feeling for killing a S or S, I just recall a mental image of the bloodied female TS and the pecked martin eggs at my site and most of the guilt dissolves.
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:56 am
Location: Michigan, Oakland

You all brought up some very valid reasons I should continue to dispatch S&S's.
I have Bluebirds in my boxes and today I'm going to mud smear some entrances
of the Troyer's. I'm not giving up and I will continue to shoot those sparrows.
Starlings haven't been an issue with the reduced openings on my Troyer's.
Thank you all for your pep talk - Back at it today.
OK, I have a question. Has anyone got 2 sparrows in 1 shot? I came so close
the other day. Oh, I have to say these Troyer gourds are very sturdy. They
can take a shot and stand up to it.
P.S. I had a sub adult male fly over Wednesday. He took a look and kept going north. :cry:
Have a great day all.
Posts: 189
Joined: Sat Apr 29, 2006 8:45 am
Location: Indiana/Scottsburg

I stopped using my starling repeating trap after getting tired of killing 2-4 every evening after work. Shooting is easy. Up close killing isn't. My starling resistant entrances solved the problem. I lost my drive.

But the benefits of getting starling populations down is tremendous. I'd hunt at the farm operation next door. After a bit I began seeing Towhees, Cardinals, wrens and many other birds verse only starlings and mourning doves. Hunting those starlings down in number is an important thing to do for the entire bird population. Sorry I lost the priority and stomach once my martins were safe from the starlings.
Landlording since 1996 in beautiful southern Indiana.
Posts: 94
Joined: Wed May 09, 2012 3:12 pm
Location: Kansas/Holcomb

Think of it this way, would gardener or farmer allow the weeds to take over his garden or field? The sparrows are non-native and an invasive species, and it was ignorance and stupidity that brought them here in the first place. Martins are not the only native species having to compete with House Sparrows. KILL THEM ALL and take comfort in that you are helping "weed the garden" for the benefit of our native birds!!
arthur nonhof
Posts: 175
Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:21 pm
Location: Lawrence, KS
Martin Colony History: 2015 - 1 pair, not successful (Sparrows)
2016 - 1 pair, 4 young
2017 - 5 pair, 23 young
2018 - 8 pair, 40 young, two deaths most likely due to heat.
2019 - 18 pair, 74 eggs, 1 nest abandoned, all the rest successful.

I've got a male sparrow I'm struggling to dispatch of. I've got 6-10 Martins just at the beginning stage of building nests. Damn sparrow wants to build in gourds as well. They pay no attention to the my repeating trap. He gets so spooked, I can't get a good crap with my pellet gun. I may have to resort to getting my 20 gauge out and shooting out of the tree after he flies off into it. Not sure what else to do. I live in the country so that's not an issue. I just can't seem to get rid of him and I don't want him destroying the eggs when we get to that point. So maddening. Drives me nuts.
Posts: 167
Joined: Fri Jan 15, 2016 7:17 pm
Location: Topeka, KS
Martin Colony History: 2015 1 SY pair, 2 eggs destroyed by house sparrow
2016 1 ASY pair, 5 eggs, 2 hatchlings, 2 fledged
2017 1 ASY pair, 5 eggs, 5 hatchlings, 5 fledged; 1 SY pair, 4 eggs not incubated
2018 daily visitors but no takers
2019 1 SY pair, 4 eggs, 2 destroyed by House Wren, 2 hatchlings, 2 fledged
2020 1ASY pair, 5 eggs, 5 hatchlings, 5 fledged

That is so frustrating! If the sparrow has claimed one gourd, can you order a sparrow trap for your gourds? That may work.

Last year we had a persistent sparrow at our trio house, was not interested in the trap on the house, just sat up on the perch and chirped all day, calling in the female. I ordered a trap door box with a sparrow call attachment and it got the sucker an hour after the box was delivered. You have to search the internet for the trap, it's expensive but when all the other traps fail (ground, house, gourd traps), and no shooting allowed, it has worked for me.

Good luck, hope you peg that sparrow soon! --Michelle
Michelle in Topeka
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:56 am
Location: Michigan, Oakland

What's wonderful is my new Troyer gourd system came with a trap and pre drilled holes built into the trap system and I got a male who was going in and out. I shot the female earlier and he came back to the gourd and triggered the trap. I haven't had sparrows since. Woo Hoo!
Matt F.
Posts: 3894
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Another thing to add, that has worked for me in the past to lure male house sparrows back in for a follow up shot, is playing the house sparrow recording on a smartphone, turned up, at the window I was shooting from.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a really neat app you can download, that has many bird calls - including house sparrows :mrgreen:
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