More photos of the Alley Colony

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Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Bob and I maintain a number of satellite martin colonies in urban/suburban areas that have house sparrows. The sparrows do sometimes move in. However, we clean out the sparrow nests early and almost in every case martins take over the cavity and evict the sparrows. Last season, we had five pairs of sparrows that had built nests at our Lowes colony in downton Shreveport. We cleaned all the nests out and by the next week all the sparrows had been evicted by martins which took over the cavities. Unless the sparrow nest is removed, the martins rarely can claim the cavity. The key is to keep the sparrow nests out earlier in the season BEFORE the martins are actively egg laying. If you contantly distrupt sparrow breeding attempts while the martins are laying or incubating eggs, then male sparrows or sparrow pairs may eventually start looking for OTHER cavities in a house or gourd rack because their current one is unproductive. This is when the problem with sparrows destroying martins eggs becomes worse. Male sparrows are tenaciously bonded to their territory! If one cavity in a house does not produce young, then the male sparrow may just start looking for another one that might! And that cavity may have a martin nest with eggs.

I have experienced "House Sparrow Revenge Syndrome" a number of times at my old boyhood colony when I repeatedly destroyed sparrows' nests/eggs when many of the martins in the same house were laying or incubating eggs. I finally managed to clean out sparrow nests, trap and eventually shoot the sparrows. The combination method of nest cleaning and eliminating the sparrows worked.

Matt F.
Posts: 3900
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Just to follow up with what Steve said, here's a link to one of Steve's many great articles, that discusses "House Sparrow Revenge Syndrome". ... evenge.htm
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Steve, thanks for your input, and thank you all for your interest.

The next question is on starlings.

To the best of my knowledge the small cavity sizes in these older housing styles have some deterrent effect on starlings. However, starlings will get into this sort of small-cavity housing on occasion as virtually all the housing in our area is of this type, several of which sites have starlings.

I think the proximity to the active dumpsters have been protecting this particular colony somewhat, in my experience starlings are less trusting than are martins.

When and if a pair of starlings do show up, my inclination would be to let them have the cavity until the eggs appear, which in our experience can happen very quickly, within a week of occupancy, and THEN tear out the nest, eggs and all.

Bernie Nickolai has stated here in the past how starlings will not reuse a site where they have lost eggs or young.

Mike Scully
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