Behavior & MigrationHouse Sparrow Attacks

House Sparrow Attacks

Real Life Experiences with House Sparrows

Bluebird nestlings killed by HOSP. Photo by J. Davis.Also see this video clip of a HOSP attack inside a nestboxClick here to view a photo that is too graphic for most people. Also see video of Tree Swallow nestling blinded in one eye and with injuries to beak from a HOSP attack.

Anyone not yet convinced should watch this video of HOSP attacking and causing premature fledging of nestling chickadees at The attack begins in earnest around 17:18 in.

Bluebird before attack. Photo by Sue Blum.
Bluebird before attack.* Photo by Sue Blum.
Bluebird after attack. Photo by Sue. Blum.
Bluebird after HOSP attack. It did not survive. Photo by Sue Blum.


The following are more verbatim posts from online birding forums, in addition to those listed on the main HOSP management page. I have included these for people who need objective evidence of the threat posed by HOSP. I hope by posting this information that someone will be spared learning this for themselves the hard way, and that more bluebirds will be protected. It IS possible, by consistently using a combination of passive and active control methods over time, to virtually eliminate House Sparrow competition in your neighborhood.

Adults or nestlings attacked by HOSP usually (but not always) have visible evidence of pecking on the top of the head and in the eyes. Eggs may also be pecked in the nestbox (usually not a pinhole like a House Wren piercing), or removed from the box.

Tree swallow killed by house sparrow. Photo by Michelle Pesce.HOSP may lunge forward with open bill, occasionally grabbing the opponent’s appendages or nape. Fights may escalate to mutual pecking, both birds fluttering up, breast to breast, clawing and pecking each other. In ground battles, the HOSP forces the other on its back, holding it down and stabbing it with the bill. HOSP occasionally attack each other during breeding season, with males attacking only males and females only females. HOSP have been reported attacking 70 species of birds, mostly at nest sites. Here is a gruesome video of a female HOSP killing a nesting chickadee.

  • Shortly after Charles Ellis set out his first birdbox in 1955, “he was thrilled to see that a pair of Tree Swallows took up residence. But House Sparrows soon moved in and laid claim to the box. They killed the female swallow and started to build their own nest on top of her and her dead nestlings. Charlie was outraged. He decided that he would spend the rest of his life helping native birds by providing them with secure nesting
    bluebird killed by House Sparrow. Photo by BrendaLynn Eustice.
    A bluebird killed by a House Sparrow in the box. Photo by BrendaLynn Eustice. Click on photo for a larger version.

    sites, and by controlling local populations of the exotic, destructive House Sparrow.” (Ellis Bird Farm history)

  • “…I found a House Sparrow nest with 2 eggs and a dead female Eastern Bluebird combined in with the nesting material….”
  • “Last year a Tree Swallow couple came to my yard and decided to nest in one of my boxes. They built a beautiful little nest and laid 5 eggs. One day when I got home from work, I watched a HOSP go straight into the house. My heart sank as I knew what was going on. I went outside and noticed that all the birds were agitated. I approached the box and the male HOSP came out like a shot. When I opened the box, I found a mangled mother sitting on a nest of 5 destroyed eggs.”
  • “I’ve personally witnessed one House Sparrow go on a rampage and kill the nestlings in 6 surrounding nestboxes (that’s 30 baby birds) filled with Tree Swallows and one bluebird family plus kill the female bluebird who was trying to defend her young – all in less than an hour….”
  • “Last spring I had 4 pairs of bluebirds. One couple decided on one of the houses. We
    Male WEBL killed by HOSP. Photo by Claudia Daigle.
    Male Western Bluebird trapped and killed by House Sparrow in a nestbox. Photo by Claudia Daigle.

    checked on them daily. One afternoon we found bright blue feathers on the ground, the male was killed, partly pecked beyond recognition, and the HOSP had started THEIR nest on top of his little dead body. The female left and the other 3 pair left too, and none ever returned.”

  • “I found a dead Black-Cap Chickadee lying on her smashed eggs because the sparrow had killed her while she tried to defend her eggs and nest. Then, the sparrow didn’t even use the nest box.”
  • “I saw a male HOSP fly out of one of my boxes in the backyard this morning.  It is a box that the TRESs have been using so I knew I’d better check it out.  I found a dead TRES sitting on her 3 eggs.  She was pecked so badly that my friend had to turn her over to identify what kind of bird she was.  This is the second time this year that a HOSP has killed a bird in one of my boxes.  Last time it was a female EABL….”
  • Photo by David Kinneer
    Photo by David Kinneer

    “…the [frustrated] 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 was determined to live peacefully with the house sparrow and use the passive controls …–removing the nest [in the second box] each day, and any eggs that were laid. After three weeks of this, he attacked the nest, destroyed five eggs, and killed the female tree swallow when she attempted to protect her nest and eggs.”
  • “There was a dead adult TRES in the box covered with about 4 inches of HOSP nesting material. The TRES was almost headless. It had been pecked to death obviously. The interesting thing is the HOSP could have built his nest in the box that was 5 feet away. He chose to attack the TRES in the box and then, instead of building his nest in the clean empty box 5 feet away, he built his nest on top of the dead TRES.”
  • “I remember now seeing a sparrow sitting on the fence, very near to the nest box a couple days ago, with the male bluebird very close and looking distressed. I didn’t think too much of it, because the sparrow was so small. I figured the male bluebird would
    Bluebird attacked by House Sparrow. Photo by Tom Allen.
    A male House Sparrow ripped all the skin off of this male Eastern bluebird’s head and gouged an eye out. Its beak was splintered. The bluebird had to be euthanized. Photo by Tom Allen.

    “scare” the small sparrow away. Only now do I understand how wrong that assumption was. Today I found three beautiful, mature bluebird babies dead in the nest.”

  • “I sat with my male bluebird for 3 long hours in March, trying to find a rehabber on a Sunday and hoping against hope that he would survive damage a male HOSP inflicted on him. He did not.”
  • “I went to check on my trail today, and noticed a male House Sparrow “singing” on the top of one of my [Tree Swallow] boxes. I got a queasy feeling inside as I ran towards the box….I was sickened to find that all four eggs were missing. I looked on the ground to find eggs broken all over. There was blood, since these eggs were just about to hatch.”
  • Dead bluebird nestlings, killed by House Sparrows. Photo by Bet Zimmerman
    These two bluebird nestlings were found underneath the box. They were killed by HOSP. Note peck marks on head beak, and back on either side of spine. Neck of nestling on left appears to be broken. See larger photo by Bet Zimmerman

    “Yesterday, I found my female bluebird…bludgeoned to death, by 2 HOSP’s in her next box. She and her mate…had given me four years of companionship and 16 babies over the years. I am sickened.”

  • Tree Swallows courageously attempted to defend their nest from a pair of HOSP for three days. Eventually the HOSP drove the parents away, after the nestlings had starved to death.”
  • “Even though House Sparrows can not enter the 1 1/8″ entrance hole [used for chickadee boxes], [they] will often mercilessly harass nesting chickadees by hanging on the box, poking their heads in the entrance hole and attacking the chickadees entering and leaving the box.”
  • “I opened a nestbox to see a bluebird and a House Sparrow in there, both so exhausted that they could not fly away when I looked in. …The bluebird died of his wounds, which included the typical pecked scalp, a punctured eye and a bill that was essentially shredded by the House Sparrow’s stronger beak.”
  • “The TRES built her nest laid 4 eggs and was sitting on them. I came home from work saw the HOSP sitting on top of the box and I knew what I would find when I opened the box. It was horrible!”
  • “When I checked my trail today I found a dead female bluebird in one of the new boxes that I just added to my trail last weekend.  A house sparrow flew out of the box when I arrived there, then when I opened the box, the female bluebird was in the box dead.  It made me so sick to my stomach that I went to a friends house to ask her to take the female out for me.  She told me the head is so badly pecked that it is almost severed off.”
  • “I saw a male HOSP fly out of the Tree Swallow nestbox with an egg is his beak.”
  • We saw it go into the bluebird house and by the time we got there, it had killed the female and the 5 babies. We also had 10 nestboxes filled with tree swallow babies (5 in each box) and all were killed. I will never forget it.”
  • “I saw a house sparrow go into the bluebird nest and … kill the female and the 5 babies before I could get there. I wouldn’t let the house sparrow build a nest and when it was gone the male bluebird came back and spent the summer singing mournfully (or so it seemed) sitting on that box.”
  • “a rogue male HOSP attacked a family of white breasted nuthatches (six 12 day old hatchlings and two parents) while I witnessed from a distance of about 20 feet (and moving towards the nestbox, squawking up a storm). The HOSP blew in to the box, and in the time it took me to run for the box, he had killed three of the nestlings by apparently flinging them so hard that he broke their necks. When I handled them, immediately after the HOSP left, the nestlings looked fine, except for the fact they were dead.”
  • Dead bluebird incorporated into HOSP nest. Photo by K. Sweet.Female bluebird killed by HOSP, with HOSP nest built on top of corpse (notice HOSP egg to right of body.)”Several years ago, 2 young boys & I had been regularly monitoring a trail. I had not seen HOSP in this area and was completely shocked to turn the bend and spot a HOSP atop the nestbox. Before I could say anything, the kids had run ahead, and found several dead nestlings on the ground, their eyes had been plucked out.”
  • “Both [nuthatch] parents were very much in evidence and [were] completely overpowered by the HOSP.  He blew into the nest and came back out quickly as I squawked and ran for the nestbox.  I opened the nestbox and found six live hatchlings and one freshly killed.  ..I left my son watching the nestbox and found a local rehabber…When we returned, we opened the nestbox and found that the HOSP had just killed two more of the nuthatches, as they were still warm and had broken necks.  All three remaining live nuthatchlings had head pecks.  One of the three injured was pecked in the eye.”
  • “I discovered a mother TRES dead on the nest with three of her young chicks killed, two tossed out on the ground and one dead in the nest.”
  • My decision for how I would deal with HOSP was actually made easier by the HOSP themselves. I will never forget the image of 6 BB babies, dead, on the ground under their nestbox in my front yard.
  • “On Saturday two weeks ago I found a dead female in a box. Last Sunday I opened it only to find the male, dead, missing his head. The HOSP flew off the box when I approached the box. He had no mate nor any prospects.”
  • “Our [bluebird] pair had 5 eggs, 5 hatchlings, and 5 growing babies. My daughter talked everyday about the pending joy of the whole family of 7 eating from our back porch. I called her today right after school as she headed out to feed them again, unfortunately all I heard was a horrible wailing cry. She witnessed a sparrow coming out of the box with all 5 bloodied babies on the ground.”
  • “I did lose an adult TRES this spring when HOSP cornered it in the box. This was interesting too because it was at a paired site with another empty box (why didn’t he use this box?) only 4 feet from the box where the TRES was beheaded and HOSP built his nest on top of dead bird.”
  • “[A male Tree Swallow] attracted a mate, they built a nest, she laid 4 eggs… that were destroyed by a HOSP just before the eggs were due to hatch.”
  • “Tiny, pitiful naked bodies were everwhere. One on the pump house roof was dead and bloody. Three others, still alive, but barely, were hidden here and there in the grass. I gently gathered the three live baby birds to me and screamed to a neighbor for help. [Another nestling] was slumped behind the pump house, his little beak broken and bleeding.”
  • “This is my 2nd year of having a bluebird trail, I have 14 boxes up and 7 have Bluebird families in them. I’m having more trouble with House Sparrows this year. The 1st 2 attacks involved loss of eggs ( 2 different nest boxes). I put up sparrow spookers and that had solved the problem. A couple days ago I had 5, 6 day old babies killed by a sparrow. I’m still traumatized by the whole thing.”
  • “As I approached the box, I heard sounds coming from inside. When I touched the box, the male HOSP flew out, almost hitting me in the face. I opened the box and found the mutilated and dying bluebird male. All of the skin had been ripped off of its head, his beak was splintered, one eye had been gouged out.”
  • “[One] TRES was still alive after a HOSP had pecked it eyes out and damaged it’s skull! There were 2 other dead TRES in the box.”
  • “I lost my female Blue while she was guarding her eggs. Her head was full of holes from pecking.”
  • “the grandchildren… watched the nest be built, six BB eggs laid, four eggs hatch, and four babies grow to about 16 days old. … I opened the box that had the four babies to find the remains of a House Sparrow attack. All four babies slaughtered.
  • “While I was at work for the short 3 hours. The HOSP killed all 5 hatchlings. It is so sad, the parents are all confused”
  • “I had a Chickadee female killed by a HOSP in the middle of making her nest. I found her in the corner of the box, with her head pecked and bloody. It broke my heart, she had the beginnings of a beautiful little nest.”
  • “I came home one day and saw 6 of the just hatched (bluebird) babies on the ground (already long gone)”
  • “When I first put up a bluebird box years ago, I had a family of carolina chickadees raising seven babies in the box, and a male House Sparrow killed them all.”
  • “I had a pair of Bluebirds that the HOSP chased away. I had a Black-capped Chickadee pecked to death in a box. And now the HOSP have removed all the Tree Swallow eggs from a nest.”
  • [After seeing a squabble and catching a male HOSP in the box] “To my horror there was a dead Tree Swallow. The head was black and blue and featherless. The body was still warm and limp. Right under our eyes a Tree Swallow had met its death.”
  • “…I checked my bluebird house and was delighted to see five beautiful little (bluebird) hatchlings, still hairless. The next morning when I went to look, there were five dead hatchlings on the ground surrounding the house. The nest was empty, but smooth and undisturbed, and a male House Sparrow was sitting on top of the house.”
  • “This…adult male Tree Swallow was found on my Bluebird trail. He was unmercifully attacked and killed by a House Sparrow. His beak was crushed, his eyes pecked out & a large hole was pecked into the top of his head.”
  • [After a neighbor erected a purple martin house that was used by HOSP] “That first year they destroyed both my bluebird nest killing the young and my chickadee nest killing their young and pulling them from their nest and they destroyed many of my purple martin nests by pecking holes in many eggs.”
  • Tufted Titmouse egg probably pecked by HOSP. Photo by EA Zimmerman“I went to check a new box that was only out 2 days on Monday and a HOSP flew out as I approached, when I opened the box there was a dead swallow all pecked to death. I was sick,there was not even a nest in there.”
  • “when I checked the box of the sparrows’ closest neighbors, I found a dead female tree swallow in the nest. Her body was intact, but her head was destroyed and only the skull remained.”
  • “I have a been successful with bluebirds nesting in the 4 boxes I have set up for them. I keep tossing out the sparrows nest as soon as I see one. This year I’ve found 4 dead bluebirds and 3 dead tree swallows in the boxes – one box had a tree swallow and a blue in it, both dead.”
  • “House Sparrows were terrorizing my nestbox. Two days after I humanely euthanized the House Sparrows, I had bluebirds in my box.”
  • “6 feathered WEBL nestlings mutilated/killed by House Sparrows – HOSP nest on top”
  • “I’ve had 5 bird houses and 11 feeders for 10 years now and never knew the horror of a sparrow massacre…. Proud of my beautiful black-capped family with 4 babies close to flight [when] a sparrow took the mother & 4 babies lives. I was worried when the [HOSP] parents settled into my blue bird house but never knew this takes place. The poor [chickadee] father stayed on a limb for 2 days so I took down the house. …After all was lost the sparrow left with no return….”
  • “The box had a nest of Tree Swallows with eggs – not sure how many because every time I looked inside the box,the devoted female was sitting on the nest. Today I saw a DREADED House Sparrow sitting on the box, but had to go to a class for my job. When I came home the sparrow was still sitting on the box. That made me VERY nervous so I went to check. And when I opened the box a dead Tree Swallow fell out at my feet. I could have cried. And then – -if that wasn’t bad enough – there was another dead Tree Swallow in the nest. The eggs are all smashed. Both have the typical head wounds of the attack of the House Sparrow.”
  • “Last year sparrows killed and threw from one of our nesting boxes 4 baby blues about 3 days old.”
  • “Lost all four chickadees babies early this morning to a attack from HOSP in the nesting cam box”
  • “I used to believe in passive HOSP control…. The sparrows have never bothered the bluebirds as they have had their own nest sites in the eves at my house and neighbors. Well, this year, I have learned my lesson. An aggressive pair chased off my two year bluebird resident pair, and destroyed a chickadee and Carolina Wren nest. The chickadee; nest was full of chickadee feathers and I can only hope she survived.”
  • I’m heartbroken. We’ve had a nesting pair of bluebirds return to one of our birdhouses for almost three years now. …Then, the other day I noticed that the female and male were both out of the nest and fluttering around the house, obviously distressed. Then I noticed what looked like a sparrow … flying in and out of the house. “That’s odd,” I thought – “What is that sparrow doing?” Well – as you’ve all probably guessed, I found all four bluebird babies – not even old enough to have pin feathers – dead on the ground a few hours later.
  • “…the house sparrow pulled out 3 chicks, caught the female inside the box and removed some of her feathers, and could not be deterred…[later] the female bluebird carried out a dead chick….with a gash in its head.”
  • “Our pair of blues laid their first egg on Tuesday. We have been watching and noticed that the sparrows weren’t bothering them. By this morning, we had 4 eggs, and 1 sparrow fighting with the male blue. DH got the spookers out, went out to hang them and found all the eggs busted outside the box.”
  • “Bluebirds built an early nest in a box easily seen from the kitchen table window. I saw some skirmishes with House Sparrows, but thought the blues had won. A few days later, I noticed a House Sparrow leave the box. I checked and found the female, scalped, and five little blues, one still alive, under a slummy sparrow nest…”
  • “Had a good first-year colony of martin, and a 2-3 year bluebird box (allowed the HOSP one cavity in the martin house,which I cleaned up as it was overstuffed, and from which I removed eggs). They left all the natives alone till the martins and blues were ready to fledge, at which point they went in and killed 2 adults, many
    fledglings,and eggs in the martin house, and got the remaining two blue fledglings.”
  • “What they found when they opened the box was the male bluebird – his head a gaping wound from another bird pecking him to death. His wings were outstretched across the nest. He had died protecting his 6 pre-fledgling youngsters. The (live) baby bluebirds were found underneath his dead body.”
  • “(On Feb. 6 in Florida) one of the first boxes I opened……pine straw sticking out of the bottom of the door………was a dead male EABL, with his eyes plucked out.”
  • “Never in my life have I seen such a thing, male bluebird lying stretched out on ground as if in flight facing nest box dead with head pecked in. Checked box and sure enough one egg broke and [HOSP] had started a nest over the top of them….”
  • “What a heartbreak to find six 3-day-old baby bluebirds mutilated by a House Sparrow; or to find an adult bluebird trapped and pecked to death.”
  • “…something had killed two female bluebirds at the bottom of both boxes. One female had been incubating four eggs. The other was sitting on four, now mummified, babies. HOSP nests were built immediately on top of the dead bluebirds. From the volume of old HOSP nest materials, I’m guessing that there were two, or three, HOSP nests over each of the dead BB’s.”
  • “I used to think HOSP were just another bird and maybe people were exaggerating the HOSP problems and how they behaved. But last year we had a BB nest in our box. They laid 3 eggs and all hatched. I came home to find two of the few day old babies thrown out of the nest. One had been pecked to death, the other had a been almost pecked to death. It ended up dying. … I went to check on the last baby maybe 4 or 5 days after the others were killed. When I opened the box there was no baby. I looked down and he had been thrown from the nest and was in a small puddle of water …. a male HOSP was sitting in the oak tree in our backyard incessantly chirping away.”
  • “…I discovered a pair of HOSP building a nest in one of my boxes. At last check, two days ago, the box was being used by Tree Swallows…?? I looked in this morning and found under the beginnings of a new HOSP nest …..a beheaded Tree Swallow.”
  • “My introduction to bluebirding …was wonderful as the bluebirds built their nest and 6 babies hatched. Unfortunately, just 3 days old, the hatchlings in the nest were killed by a male House Sparrow. I took the nestbox down. Years later at another location, I tried again, and was thrilled to watch a male bluebird investigating the box and go inside. Unfortunately, a male House Sparrow followed him in. Within minutes, I ran outside to find that bluebird breathing his last.”
  • “Not the mother’s day weekend I hoped for. I went out to check my bluebird box because I had seen the house sparrows flying around it and they killed all three babies.”
  • “My first HOSP casualty of this season was a CACH found in a box devoid of nesting material. I have had boxes remain empty for weeks, have a native nester show interest, and a HOSP immediately follows suit, suddenly interested in this box that had remained empty for weeks.”
  • “…a male HOSP entered my bluebird box and totally destroyed all four eggs. He threw them out of the box, all were pecked open.”
  • “At 7 pm I observed a male Ruby throated [hummingbird] perch 4′ high in Firebush, and then it looked around. After a few minutes it swooped into a bunch of Shrimp plant near this perch. It had fed from two blossoms when a brown blur struck it. Both tumbled into the Shrimp plant before the male Ruby throated flew from the Shrimp plant in my direction. I walked to the Shrimp plant to see what did the attacking, and the aggressor hid among some Powder puff. But leaving behind it was a female House Sparrow; the aggressive bird then flew up to the House Sparrow nest box. I did not see if it was a male or another female House Sparrow.”
  • “I did not know hosp were killers until I came home from work and saw a male sparrow on top of a box I knew had a tres sitting on eggs. I looked in the box and the momma was dead still sitting on her eggs. She was almost decapitated.”
  • “I was delighted when a pair of bluebirds moved in and raised their family there. They have returned year after year and successfully raised families. …I thoroughly enjoyed watching them busily building their nest, and then hatching four eggs and feeding and caring for their fledglings. My joy turned to heartbreak when I discovered a house sparrow in the box and all four baby bluebirds dead lying on the ground beneath it.”
  • “I had 5 beautiful Bluebird eggs in the nest yesterday about to hatch and now today they are all gone. I saw a house sparrow flying inside the house. I went out to see what was going on and that was when I saw all the eggs gone. The male and female bluebird are nowhere to be found.”
  • “I lost about 20 bluebird nestlings this past season–most to situations where there was no visible sign that the hosps were even in the area.”
  • “In two different seasons, a large flock of sparrow fledgings engulfed the meadow next to a nestbox of 14-15 day old Bluebirds. Both times, the Bluebird parents went berserk, calling for their young to leave the nestbox.”
  • “Some neighbors had an EABL pair in a nestbox…By the time I got there, a male HOSP was proudly sitting on the box, declaring to the world that he had new real estate. The [bluebird] chicks were dead in the box.”
  • “I read up online about bluebirds and put my box up in what I thought would be a good open area of the yard in late April. Within 24 hours I was delighted that we had a bluebird pair claim our box. We had no trouble for a month …. This weekend we were away (the 5 nestlings were around 9 days old) – when I returned I immediately recognized that the bird sitting on our birdhouse was a House Sparrow (I don’t see them much around our yard, and had never seen one inspect the box before this time). My heart sank because I knew what I would find – 5 dead nestlings – horrible!”
  • “I saw 2 sparrows going in and out of a bluebird box, and 2 Tree Swallows fighting them–I walked up to the box and saw 5 baby TS on the ground. The sparrows had pulled them out of the box.”
  • “I just found my second male BB pecked to death inside the nest box in two weeks. I assume they were trying to defend the box against HOSP.”
  • ALL the swallow fledglings had the top of their heads pecked at, and when the last fledging swallow jumped out of the nest box it couldn’t fly away, it had many flight wings missing on the right side and the top of his head was pecked at too…”
  • (while removing a HOSP nest) “I inspected the mess and found the remains of one of my bluebirds. Headless. I began to cry and I feel so guilty. These beautiful helpless bluebirds.”
  • “No one likes to deal with the hosp. It is very difficult, but the one thing that I can not shake from my mind is the sight I saw when I opened a nest box and saw the female TRES almost decapitated still sitting on her eggs. I never knew hosp. killed other birds until I found this forum. It was too late for momma TRES. I found out the hard way.”
  • “[HOSP were nesting in a box paired with a box where bluebirds had started building.] I knew I had to trap. [The next day] I went to set the trap and the male HOSP flew out of the bluebird’s box. The female had been killed. If only, if only I had set the trap earlier. I will never never never wait again.
  • “When I found my first male BB in the nesting house with his eyes pecked out and his head nearly pecked off I sat on the ground and cried like a baby.”
  • “I didn’t know hosp. killed other birds. It killed my tree swallow momma still sitting on her 4 eggs. The bast*rd bird started building his nest on top of her.”
  • “[the] box produced at least 2 nestings each season for the last 2 years–until this spring. It’s always the first box I check, since that couple was so reliable. Unfortunately, I found the female in early April, practically beheaded. No HOSPS on the box at that time so I, mistakenly, didn’t attempt to trap. Two weeks later I saw a male HOSP on the nestbox and knew before I even opened the box what I would find. The male bluebird inside was literally obliterated.”
  • “I was passive about HOSP myself until the day I found the female bluebird in the box with her eyes pecked out.”
  • [TRES]”Babies hatched, cheeped for three weeks and parents busily fed them, delighting all who watched them. This morning the box was silent and no parents were around. I looked inside, thinking they might have fledged already, but no….all four babies were dead. ….I feel guilty as all hell for not taking the threat of their [HOSP] existence more seriously….I thought the babies were safe, certainly by now. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
  • …before the HOSP invaded, our bluebirds could nest wherever and whenever. How things have changed in such a short time.
  • “I found the decapitated body of a bluebird in one of my boxes …. A short time after that more bluebird eggs were laid in the box. But again, after checking on the box I found all four eggs on the ground. I also found the hatchlings of my tree swallows, (4 in all), dead on the ground under their box.”
  • “I removed a HOSP nest from one of our nest boxes, and the male HOSP gave me a good beak full of protest. Just down the hill 100 yards away, was a thriving nest box full of baby Violet-green Swallows. The next day, I found that nest box full of heathy baby Violet-green Swallows, DEAD with their skulls pecked open! To say the least, I was mad at that male HOSP, but I was even madder at myself for letting him off the hook.”
  • “Unfortunately [I live in a] modestly developed area with lots of people feeding birds. Sadly these seem to be mostly HOSP and Starlings… I had a lovely pair of tree swallows nesting in my bird house in the yard. …Unfortunately my neighbor who should know better allowed a pair of house sparrows to nest in one of his houses. [Eventually, my neighbor] kicked out the sparrows. Unfortunately they then attacked my tree swallows the following day. … nest material was hanging out of the hole and the sparrow was sitting on the roof. The tree swallows were flying around in circles frantically….all the eggs destroyed. Also, the house sparrow was moving into another vacant house on my deck. …The swallows have gone.”
  • “…a complete House Sparrow nest [was] built up and over the body of the [male] bluebird. That box had not had House Sparrows in it in many years.”
  • “I saw a male HOSP fly out of one of my boxes in the backyard this morning. It is a box that the TRESs have been using so I knew I’d better check it out. I found a dead TRES sitting on her 3 eggs. She was pecked so badly that my friend had to turn her over to identify what kind of bird she was.”
  • “When I discovered [a HOSP] nest with 4 eggs in it, I removed the entire nest with eggs and discarded it.  The VERY NEXT DAY, a nearby nestbox containing 5 bluebird chicks a few days away from fledging was invaded by a male HOSP (I saw him perched on top of the box carrying nesting material) and my heart sank.  I immediately checked the box and in it were 5 dead and mangled bluebirds […and the HOSP had already] begun placing nesting material on top of the dead bodies”
  • “A couple of weeks ago I tore out a HOSP nest with 6 eggs in it and last week I checked l0 boxes in this area and found 4 that had been destroyed. One with 4 adolescents almost ready to fledge and the adult female dead, and the other boxes with babies at various stages.”
  • “I went to the box to see my babies and was met with the shock of my life, yes they were dead with the exception on one that was bloody and basically dying right in front of us. I was so devastated, I think in my head I thought I was “safe” from the sparrow issue.”
  • ” I lost an entire fledged nest of Dees to HOSPs last summer. I had a trail of Dee was horrible.”
  • “I figured as long as [the HOSP] weren’t bothering my other BB nest box and they weren’t reproducing all would be fine. Much to my dismay, last week I noticed new sparrows at my back box….a few days ago I was horrified to find the male bluebird dead inside of his own home! The male sparrow killed him and claimed the box for his own….we have had this bluebird pair for 7 years and the female is still searching for him….”
  • “I found a CACH [Carolina Chickadee – Ed.] pecked in head inside a box this week.”
  • “I had an adult male bluebird killed over memorial weekend this year by another male sparrow…Once you’ve held a mortally wounded bluebird in your hand, done in by the dirty little masked ba—-ds, you’ll never sit while there’s a male house sparrow in your yard!
  • “I have personal experiences with HOSPs destroying eggs of wood ducks and killing little baby screech owlettes and I’m not alone.”
  • “My bluebird box had a nest with three eggs in it.  This morning I saw a sparrow come out of the nest box.  Upon inspection, all the eggs were gone.  I found them broken on the ground in various places. “
  • “I caught a pair of House Sparrows once filling up a nestbox with feathers and adding all of their junk. Bluebirds were calling from a nearby tree but simply watching the sparrows. Upon opening up the box the bluebird babies were completely covered in new House Sparrow nesting material but were not … hurt. (KK) “
  • “I lost a family of six TRES, both adults and four 8 day old chicks, all killed in the box by a male HOSP. He was sitting on the roof being dive bombed by about a half dozen TRES when I came along.  I set a trap in the box but he never returned.  There was a empty nest box on the next fence post about 10-12 feet away. “
  • “[The female bluebird] was dead sitting on her eggs… my heart was broken…my daughter was upset as well, especially since she named them both this time. I buried her the eggs and the nest under our rose bush.”
  • “…take it from one who has been there – “Live and let live” only works when both parties agree. I let the HOSP live unmolested and they destroyed 5 potential bluebirds for no reason.”
  • “I lost another brood of Tree swallows. This was the third year in a row that they were destroyed. I tried defending the nest box with a BB gun, but the Sparrows have more free time than I do and they eventually won.”
  • “Not seeing [the male bluebird] for 2 days, I checked the box and he had been killed on the nest, little head nearly pecked off…. I then started checking all the boxes and found one that the Sparrow nest had many Bluebird feathers in it….”
  • [The bluebird was] “decapitated and left on top of 6 eggs.”
  • I came home to find a house sparrow sitting on a box that I believed still had at least one [bluebird] fledgling remaining …I put my hand in the box and I felt a cold bird…the baby bird’s neck was broken. I had allowed a pair of HOSP to use another nest box so they wouldn’t bother my bluebirds.
  • “A male house sparrow shows up without a female and threw out on the ground ALL of the baby Barn Swallows. He didn’t even try to build a nest.”
  • “I saw the female sparrow chase a curious starling out of another nest hole.  she was sitting on her (refrigerated [to render them infertile]) eggs when she noticed the vibration – zipped out, stuck her head in and bit him in the butt – took one second.”
  • “One of my boxes on the trail contained 5 babies that were due to fledge this past weekend. When I pulled up to it, there was a male HOSP sitting on the box with the incessant chirping. Inside were 5 dead EABL babies.”
  • “My bluebird couple” sang me to life.   I got attached and they became more like pets.  My female in particular was very sweet and such a good Mom that had 9 babies this season.  As she returned on Friday to poke inside her old box, she was pinned by a HOSP and pecked to death including pecking her eyes out.  It was devastating and I had to have a friend remove her from the box because I was sobbing like an idiot. 
  • “I opened up a nest boxes located a hundred yards away from the nest box that had the HOSP nest in it (I had a nest full of 4 healthy baby Violett Green Swallows in this nest box) and …all of the baby Violett Green Swallows were found dead with …their skulls opened up by this male HOSP that I saw nearby….”
  • “Some times when I have used a two-hole box, I do not know if the female did any of the killing but she did set in one of the holes as the male would go in the other hole and he would kill the bird in the box.” M.S.
  • “Returning home from work one day when the bluebird nestlings were about a week old, I saw the female sparrow exiting the bluebird box. From what I saw, it appeared the male sparrow kept the adult bluebirds busy while the female sparrow entered their nest and did the dirty work. To my dismay, I found all five bluebird nestlings dead!”
  • “We did our homework and had a successful bluebird nesting but when the nestlings were 10 days old we came home one morning to discover a HOSP attack had killed all four of them as well as the female.”
  • “I checked the tree swallows today to see if they had laid an egg yet and there was the swallow bleeding and dead.  When I returned with a glove to remove her, you guessed it, a male house sparrow flew out of the box.
  • “I carefully began removing the HOSP nest….on top of what had been the BB nest, was the carcass of the male BB, his head pecked open. He died attempting to protect his family and their home. The five babies were gone.”
  • A quote from someone who actively ground traps: We had a large colony of house sparrows here, taking up all the nest sites and getting larger and bolder by the day — nothing seemed to work with them.  We got your trap and that took care of the colony right away — all gone.  Peace at last!   All the other good birds have come back, and each year we catch the few sparrows that dare show up.  Now we have swallows, bluebirds, wrens, warblers … all nesting in peace. 

*Note: feeding on or near nestboxes is not recommended, as it may attract nestbox competitors or predators.


The meaning of life is that it stops.
– Franz Kafka


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