Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Call Me, The "Bird Nerd"

These are purple martins. They are awesome little birds. They make pretty sounds, they zip around low to the ground, scarfing up flying insects for food. They are totally comfortable around humans, and will actually buzz your head if you are out working in the yard.

I want lots of these guys on my property. But first, we must go to war. More on that in a moment.

Laughable how it is, as we age, we start finding ourselves pursuing hobbies that are more properly suited to octogenarians shuffling around with canes.

Yet, this is where I stand. I am a bird nerd.

Here's the backstory. Last year, I was told by my landscaper to order a purple martin house. He espoused the captivating flight patterns, colors, and song of this rare migratory bird. He told me about how they actually come north from Central America every spring, and will somehow FIND the same birdhouses they successfully raised their young in the year before.

Sounded like total bullshit to me, but I said, okay, why not.

Sure enough I got a few of the lovely purple martins last year, and they immediately began a spat with some local house sparrows over living quarters in the 12 room house I had erected.

I had read briefly, how the house sparrow nests must be removed by the martin house "landlord" (me) diligently to prevent them from ousting and harassing the martins.

I was also told, by the literature that came with the house, that it was legal to "shoot or trap" sparrows.

Okay. Cool.

I tore out the houses, but not too religiously. I bought a Crossman Remington Summitt 22 pellet gun, and took some potshots at the sparrows, but never actually bagged one.

The martins eventually disappeared sometime in August, and I didn't think twice about it. Then the fall and winter came, and that was that for the season.

So this year, I decided to buy two bluebird houses, AND another 16 room purple martin house to try to give everyone a nice place to live.

Ohhhhh. NO.

That's when I read about so-called Sparrow Revenge Syndrome. Here's your key paragraph:

From my experiences, frequent house sparrow nest removal, without permanent removal of the house sparrows, is NOT a viable house sparrow control method. Such a method may create more aggressive, "vindictive" house sparrows because their nest cycle is broken and yet they still have a powerful desire to procreate. They will just look elsewhere in the martin house/gourd cluster for another nest site to breed. That nest site may just be an active martin nest. Remember: the male house sparrow selects the territory and nothing short of death will usually force to completely abandon the site.

Wow. I never knew that sparrows were such complete avian assholes! But then I read some more, and more, and more.

Then, I ordered this trap.

It is war, folks. Plain and simple.

Especially since I was overjoyed to see at least 4 martin pairs flying around the new house, and hopefully scoping out a new home.

If I don't aggressively eliminate the sparrows around my house, then these awesome purple martins will never nest or breed.

So all counting, I bet I am in for at least $200 worth of bird houses, and now sparrow traps.

But when I go all in, I go "all in."

I turn 42 in June. What a freakin' nerd. But at least Tony Soprano had his little affection with those stupid ducks in his pool.

Purple Martins Check Out Their New Crib! from Steve Czaban on Vimeo.


  1. You need to get yourself some of those varmint targets and practice sniping a bit. Squeeze the trigger. Be one with the gun, and become that sparrow killer.

  2. Love the stuff, Czabe, and I agree with almost everything upon which you opine (scary). I even have martin houses myself. However, your photo is of a tree swallow checking out a purple martin house! Also a beneficial bird, mind you...just not a purple martin!

  3. dude; you're soooo gay....and OLD!

  4. We have 3 Robin families that have had numerous batches of young literally on our house. These birds love to build nests on lamps and nooks and crannies right on the house - probably for warmth and safety - way cool way to show the kids the whole cirlce of life thing. As a kid we hand raised Robins that would get knocked out of nest every year. These birds got so domesticated that we would let them out during the day to eat and they would come in at night to sleep in a warm box/cage in our house. I am not kidding! Eventually they would leave but then they would start their own families right in our yeard - I'm not kidding - and the ones that we raised by hand would be bold enough to walk right up to us to take bread out of our hands. I'll never forget this and thankfully I'm now getting to share this love of nature with my kiddies.

  5. Czabe - A .22 cal at 1000 fps is way too much gun for a sparrow, plus a break barrel takes a lot of technique to shoot well. I recommend a .177 cal multi-pump, such as the Benjamin 397.

    Randy (an airgun nerd)

  6. My father had Purple Martin houses that he made and put on top of a 20 foot pole. He built a pulley system to raise and lower the birdhouse to clean out the sparrows. He built his own traps to clear the sparrows out and finally after several years he was able to get some Martin occupants. I think it took about 5 years to get Martins, but now every year the Martins return and there are no more sparrow problems.

  7. Better idea: Go buy every cat about to be put down from your local humane society and just turn them loose.

    Nature's sparrow trap.

  8. Sorry Czabe, you have tree swallows - not purple martins.Still a cool bird though.

  9. Czabe, post pics or video of that sparrow trap - I got to see that in action. What are you planning on doing with them once you capture them? My father-in-law traps squirrels that continue to get inside his attic somehow, then he fills up a giant garbage can with water, and submerges the entire trap!! This was after he tried to poison it with wasp killer and then other hazardous household cleaners - damn thing wouldn't die, so deep six he went!

  10. I think Mike is right. Those look like tree sparrows. I got my first 2 pairs this year and am also having a sparrow problem. I just put up my second pole, I have one gourd system with 8 living quarters and a house with 4. They are the coolest and I love to watch them from my back deck in the morning when I find them to be the most active.

  11. I've got bats. The hang out in my eave vents (haven't broken through the screen to get in the attic, just hang in the vents) and poop on my water hose cabinet below.
    But DANG them things can eat some bugs! So bat-friendly, I have become.

  12. Czabe:

    Yesterday I read your post in sympathy as I started having problems with a male sparrow that killed 6 bluebird chicks in my blue bird box 3 weeks ago.

    Today I finally offed him with an old school Crossman 2100 .177 multi-pump pellet gun. Sniping those sparrow punks is tricky, it took me 3 weeks to kill him. But like a previous poster said, practice up a bit and you'll get him eventually.

    Blue birds are resilient though. After I emptied the box of the nest and dead chicks they started rebuilding and now 3 weeks later they have a nest and eggs in the same box again. So there is hope should the sparrows get the best of your blue birds.

    Best of luck with the trap. Should you be able to trap your sparrows I've got a good idea for doing away with 'em. After you get some sparrows in the trap: (1)put the trap in a large garbage bag almost fully closing the open end, (2)get some aerosol starter fluid - Prestone, Gumout, Gunk are some brands (3)spray lots of starting fluid into the bag and close/seal the end (4)wait a few minutes and 'voila', euthanized sparrows thanks to a heavy overdose of ether.

    Best of luck!

  13. Sparrow = Sky Roach

    Show them no mercy!

  14. Thanks for the heads up on the ol' tree swallows! That is indeed, what they are! I thought they looked a little different than the purple martins, but I chalked that up to them perhaps being juveniles.

    Luckily, these swallows are thriving in a little box, and have some eggs.

    Also, I have some genuine purple martins on my other houses.

    On the sparrow front, I have trapped 4 of them (two pairs, male & female) and sent them off to birdie heaven.

    My wife is NOT very comfortable with the whole trapping thing, but she won't read the articles about the damage done by sparrows.

    I pulled the birds out of the trap, put them in a mesh bag, windmilled them into a stone retaining wall.

    Goodnight now.

    Left the sparrows out by a tree, were gone by morning.

    ** CUE: Cirle of Life from Lion King **

    More updates as they become available. I am the bird nerd. Old and lame.