How to Control Sparrows in Martin Houses

How to Control Sparrows in Martin Houses
House Sparrows (English Sparrows) are a variety of finch. Identify them by spotting the male. He has a black bib across his chest and a chestnut brown stripe down the back of his neck. Do not mistake this for the chestnut colored cap that marks the Chipping Sparrow.

Native sparrows do not nest in cavities. They are not the sparrows which trouble martins.

English Sparrows will attempt to kill Purple Martin adults and young still in the nest. They will try to take over nesting sites, break eggs and build their nest directly on top of martin nests and nestlings.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging


Things You’ll Need:
  • Hammer Nails Mylar strips Fishing line Small weights Sparrow traps or netting
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Mylar strips
  • Fishing line
  • Small weights
  • Sparrow traps or netting
Step 1
Discourage sparrows from nesting in martin houses through periodic examination of the nesting area. Remove any sparrow nests. Sparrows have the opportunity to discover and claim housing before martins return from their migration.
Step 2
Remove any perches from your martin houses. This will not keep sparrows out, but it can cut down on their ability to bother martins inside.

While new designs in entrance-access holes have been developed to exclude most starlings from martin houses, sparrows can still fit inside and have to be managed in a different manner.
Step 3
Study the timing of arriving martins to avoid providing housing until the main colony enters the area. This will provide less opportunity for interlopers to establish themselves.


Step 1
Frighten away the unwanted birds by mounting strips of Mylar near the entrance to nesting sites. This is an excellent option for people who do not want to harm the birds but do want to deter them from fighting nesting pairs or trying to take over a cavity.
Step 2
Stretch fishing line taut across the roof of housing by placing four nails on the roof and running line around and between them. Frame the entrance hole with three nails and run line around all sides of the entrance (except immediately below the hole). Dangle loose strands from the sides of nesting boxes. Attach a small weight to each to prevent the line from blowing into the nesting box.
Step 3
Relocate martin homes away from the cover of trees and bushes. Sparrows prefer cover, while martins like open space around their homes. Moving a box can also discourage a sparrow that has chosen the box to nest.
Step 4
Remove sparrows and give them no reason to return. Trap sparrows with netting or live traps and release them away from the area. If you feed birds, avoid feeding corn and millet seeds, preferred by sparrows.

Article Written By Alice Moon

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.

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