Monday, April 23, 2012

Death to Sparrows: A New Hope

Funny how once you become a "Bird Nerd" and begin trying to attract and keep purple martin colonies, or help bluebirds mate and reproduce in nest boxes on your property, you notice sparrows everywhere you go.

Sparrows, for those that do not know, are vermin of the sky.

They are non-native, overproduce like the Octomom, and are generally mean, sneaky, murderous sons-of-bitches.

They must die. All of them.

Which brings me to this email...
Long-time listener, first-time emailer. Love the show. 
On Friday you mentioned a new sparrow trap in use at The Monogamous Compound. I also fight the good fight against sparrows here in central Indiana. I keep several bluebird houses, and the sparrows are a deadly nuisance that must be dealt with. 
I've been using the repeating trap for a few years, with moderate success. But I'm always on the lookout for a better gadget. What is this new trap, and where can I get more info? 
Eric Dollar
Well Eric, I have your answer below, but first let me catch everybody else up to speed first.

If you want the primer on just how bad the so-called "English House Sparrow" is native songbirds, read this summary of how they respond to being "forced out" of their nests, or otherwise "gently encouraged" to go elsewhere.

They don't take the hint. And it just pisses them off.

The sparrows became increasingly "frustrated" and started flying to other sections of the house; they were looking for another more "productive" nest site. They battled with the martins on a number occasions, but the martins successfully repelled the sparrows. During this time, I managed to shoot the female sparrow, but the male was too smart and never allowed me to get close enough. At this point, the male sparrow started a one bird campaign to destroy as many of the martin nests as he could. I remember coming home from school and finding a number of white martin eggs, some with large embryos inside, scattered underneath the house. He had wiped out 2 nests that day. The next morning I saw him fly out of another martin nest with a white egg in his beak. For the next several weeks, that one male sparrow destroyed 8 martin nests and around 50 eggs! He even destroyed the eggs again of 2 pairs that had renested! He seemed to be possessed with a desire to eliminate all martin eggs in the house. I tried to shoot him and by then I had installed a Trio sparrow trap on the martin house pole. He was clever and never went near the trap, though I did catch several other sparrows that had shown an interest in the house. Only 2 pairs of martins in that 18 room house, ones where both male and female faithfully guarded their nests ALL the time, succeeded in raising young.

So my first order of business was to purchase a high power, high quality pellet gun with a strong scope. I took at least an hour, dialing in the crosshairs to as precise as I could get, mounting the gun on a stable workbench for extra accuracy.

One day, in a matter of minutes, I plugged two of these bastards with rather amazing 20-30 yards shots.

I thought: "this is gonna be easy!"

It was not.

For one, I realized I had likely wandered into two pretty damn "lucky shots" that day. Because I had trouble  replicating my sniper success. For another, I started to notice that the sparrows wouldn't let me get ANYWHERE close enough to line them up for a shot.

So that method of control took a back seat, and I ordered a "repeating" sparrow trap that looked like a wire box. It worked pretty good at first, landing me about 6-8 sparrows.

But there were multiple problems.

1. The box also ended up catching a variety of "nice" birdies like cardinals and such. I released them without harm, but it was still not what I prefer.

2. You have to reach your hand in the box and grab the sparrows yourself. Sometimes, depending on how frisky they are, this can take 10 or more minutes each.

3. You then have to kill the sparrows by hand. Somehow. I read the purple martin website's "officially approved" methods of "humane" killing. It said you should stay away from all of the "fun" methods (i.e. smashing with hammer, blender, drowning, etc.) Boo. They said the most humane was is to put the sparrow into a light mesh bag, and whip it around in a circle real fast, before WHAM! Slamming it into the pavement, for instant death. Okay, whatever. Pain in the ass.

4. Most importantly, I noticed a real decline in the number of trapped sparrows after a while. Being how sneaky they are, I don't doubt they had become "wise" to the danger, and just stayed away entirely. Plus, with my abundant other bird feeders, they had plenty of other "dining" options.

5. Lastly, the big problem with the repeater box, is that I couldn't reliably use it during the week, where I am gone at work all day. If other birds got in there, they might die or be killed by sparrows before I come home.

Well, I am happy to report, a new "killer weapon" in this battle may have arrived.

Say hello to my little friend, as Tony Montana would say.

The "New Universal Sparrow Trap."

This beauty has been just SLAYIN' sparrows since I started using it on one of my houses. It fits right inside an existing "nest box" in a 12 room house I have, and I have caught 5 sparrows now in a little over 3 weeks.

I found a sparrow nest inside a "double apartment in the house. One where there is a "foyer" box, so to speak, and then you turn "left" into the sparrow nest of straw.

Knowing sparrows lived there, I just put this bad boy in the "foyer" and sure enough, BOOM! Caught and killed the pair nesting there in a matter of 2 days.

So I put it back in there, thinking: "Hmmm. Maybe somebody else will try to take that nest." Sure enough.... BOOM BOOM BOOM!

Three more males, all with in a 2 week span. And with this sucker, it's a simple "blub blub blub" to the bottom of the Home Depot orange bucket of water. Humane or not, dead is dead. At this point, I just don't care.

Sadly, I see MORE sparrows starting to arrive in the yard. My dad thinks it's just hopeless. He says that more will arrive from the surrounding barns here in the country, and see a relatively un-crowded market for housing and try to move in.

He might be right.

But I don't care. The fight will continue.


And if you STILL doubt the bad-assed-ness of the seemingly innocent "sparrow", then why did the USAF name their best air-to-air missile, the AIM-7 Sparrow?



  1. Quote the Czaben.....NEVERMORE !!!!

    Seriously dude, love you, but realize you are growing into that ranting old man syndrome with birds, NFL Commissioner, Tebow, etc. Loosen up man, you're holding on too tight.

  2. You're fighting a never ending battle I'm afraid. I engaged in a similar crusade against chipmunks many years ago, and after killing 15-20 over a couple months, I finally waved the white flag. They just keep coming and I got tired of trapping.

  3. This from the man who goes ape shit over a poisoned tree.

  4. Removing the comment about being called on your shooting a federally protected species of sparrow, but not removing the blog entry itself? Bad form. You are better than that.

  5. Don't worry, both the photo and the blog post were forwarded to appropriate authorities.

    I have been told they will be in touch.

    Maybe next time this blogger, or any who read his trigger happy comments, will LEARN about what they are shooting FIRST, and then shoot carefully SECOND.

    And yes, VERY BAD form to take down a critical comment because he got called out.

  6. 20 ga. shotgun with mod choke and a box of 7 shot work well. 6 pack summer shandy and a lawn chair?? let the feathers fly