Give House Sparrows their own martin house!

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Mary Dawnsong
Posts: 1685
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 8:17 pm
Location: Michigan, Livingston County

f you live in an area where there's a shortage of nesting cavities and a high population of House Sparrows (HOSP) this will put tremendous pressure on your martin house. The House Sparrows will be driven to claim martin compartments. In my experience, the best way to eliminate cavity-seeking HOSP is to erect separate, permanent nestbox traps.

There are two basic types of live traps for birds - bait traps and nestbox traps. Each can work well, but right now the nestbox traps are likely to be much more effective. That's because the HOSP are more interested in cavities than bait. Now, you can bait with nest material like feathers, but the HOSP are going to need a cavity before they are attracted to nest material.

The best nestbox traps for HOSP have entries that are too small for martins to enter. The Trio Spare-O-Door is an extremely effective and durable trap and it cannot trap martins. Unfortunately, the Spare-O-Door only works in Trio/Nature House compartments. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to find used Trio martin houses for sale. Here's what the trap looks like:
(Wow! These have gotten expensive! The PMCA member price is $2 less.)

Find a used Trio martin house and buy a few Spare-O-Doors. Use them to make a dedicated trap house. Erect the trap house in a less open area than your martin housing and it will be more attractive to HOSP than your martin house is. Monitor the trap house carefully, there is a chance of it catching smaller native birds.

My HOSP trap is an 8-compartment Trio house with 8 Spare-O-Doors. I've been using it for 2 years and estimate it has kept over 95% of cavity-seeking HOSP away from my martin, Tree Swallow, and Bluebird housing. I erected it on April 4 this season and in 10 weeks it has caught 36 male and 15 female HOSP, most of them in the first 6 weeks. The HOSP trao stays active all season whenever I am around to monitor - that's necessary because HOSP raise 3-5 broods PER SEASON!

Here is an excellent PMCA Update Magazine article that goes into much more detail on this type of trapping, including lot's of photos of the Spare-O-Door in use:

Need a cheaper or faster solution? Build it yourself!
If you are a do-it-yourself kind of landlord, you can build your own trap house. Buy or build a simple wooden martin house with small compartments and fill it with homemade Huber traps. Here's how to make a Huber trap: ... OWCONTROL/
The final home for House Sparrows
The final home for House Sparrows
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Last edited by Mary Dawnsong on Sat Jun 30, 2007 8:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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"In Michigan every martin matters"
Dale Hrncirik


That is great advice! I just want to add two more important points regarding trapping. Here in north Texas, the temps have been unseasonably high for June. I recently disabled all my single nest box traps because any bird that gets trapped could easily die in the box in a few hours of 95+ degree heat(probably much hotter in an enclosed box). I usually get home by 3:30 but still feel uncomfortable using the NB traps when the high temps are expected to be 95 F or above. Anyone using this style of trap boxes...please be careful and monitor them closely.

If you are using a repeating style nest box trap with a holding cage, make sure the cage is shaded and has a container of water in it for the birds. This kind of trap is much safer to use during hot weather.

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