BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR House sparrows, also known as English sparrows, are established throughout North America. Nest building begins as early as April, with both sexes taking part in the activity. Nests may be located almost anywhere. Three to seven eggs are laid, commonly five, and two or three broods are raised each year. Soon after the young leave the nest, they gather in small flocks. As the summer advances, adults join the juveniles until the flock may number several hundred.
DAMAGE Damage from house sparrows includes loss of grain in fields, animal feed stations, storage sheds, and feedlots, and depredation on sprouting vegetables and flower crops, seeds of newly seeded lawns, fruit tree and ornamental buds, and pecking of ripening fruit. The house sparrow harbors the chicken louse and the bird louse. House sparrows are capable of transmitting fowl cholera, turkey blackhead, Newcastle disease, avian tuberculosis, Eastern equine encephalitis, pullorum, canary pox, anthrax, and numerous helminths, fungal and protozoan parasites. The noise and filth associated with their nests are nuisances in urban areas.
CONTROL METHODS Exclusion Sparrows can be excluded from buildings with 1/2 to 1 inch hardware cloth or plastic netting. The angle of roosting ledges should be altered to 45 degrees or more with sheet metal or wood. Wires such as Ninlite or Cat Claw can be placed on ledges and ridges of buildings to prevent roosting. Various sticky substances such as Roost-No-More and Bird Tanglefoot can be placed on ledges to discourage sparrows.
Trapping A wide variety of traps have been used for local control of house sparrows. Traps that are designed to catch only a few birds at a time include the double funnel trap, the nest trap, and the commercially available elevator trap. Portable trailer and tent type traps are used to catch large numbers of birds. Chick scratch, fine cracked corn, milo, wheat, bread crumbs, or their combinations make good baiting material and food sources for decoys and captured birds.
Baits Avitrol, a chemical frightening agent, is available for sparrow control. It is a restricted use pesticide. Birds that eat enough of the treated bait will die, but they first display distress symptoms that frighten other members of the flock away. In urban areas, this pesticide should be used cautiously, because high mortality can cause adverse public reactions.
Nest Removal Removing nests and destroying young also help depress sparrow populations, but inaccessibility of nests makes the cost to benefit ratio unattractive. LEGAL STATUS The house sparrow is not protected by federal law and it is not a protected bird in Utah. Check with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources before poisoning birds.