EducationHandout on Neglected Nestboxes

Handout on Neglected Nestboxes


Download MS Word document you can customize, or you can use this for talking points. There is also a letter you can use for commercial establishments allowing HOSP to breed/roost/feed.

Please Help Bluebirds and Other Native Birds Survive and Thrive:
A House Sparrow Advisory

[Insert organization logo, address here]

Dear Property Owner,

If you have a birdhouse in your yard, your good intentions in attempting to provide birds with a place to nest should be applauded. However, many nature lovers don’t realize that by allowing a birdhouse to stand unmanaged, they are indirectly harming the very birds the house was meant to benefit, by providing a breeding ground for the worst enemy of bluebirds – the House Sparrow.

The once common bluebird underwent a dramatic decline during the 1900’s.House sparrow. A major cause was the introduction of the House (English) Sparrow (Passer domesticus). The avian equivalent of pests like rats, gypsy moths and crabgrass, House Sparrow populations exploded. They are harmful to native species such as bluebirds, purple martins, chickadees, and Tree Swallows, making it virtually impossible for them to successfully nest. (If you’re not sure what a House Sparrow looks like, they can often be seen in the garden section of a Home Depot, or around fast food restaurants.)

House Sparrows are persistent, aggressive and destructive predators. They may destroy eggs and nestlings; and kill adult birds caught inside the box, sometimes building their own nest on top of the corpse. House Sparrows will not only prevent native birds from nesting in your birdhouse, but they will also breed there. One pair of House Sparrows could theoretically multiply into more than a thousand birds over a five year period. Soon House Sparrows take over all available boxes. It is better to have no box at all than to allow House Sparrows to reproduce in one.

Eastern bluebird. Photo by Wendell Long.Bluebirds rely on pre-existing nest sites like nestboxes. Please help native bird populations rebound in our area by taking steps to keep House Sparrows and European Starlings (another aggressive bird that was introduced) from breeding in any birdhouses on your property.

Because House Sparrows and starlings are not native to the U.S., and are considerednuisance species, they are not protected by U.S. federal law. House Sparrownests, eggs, young, and adults may be legally removed or destroyed.If you are not willing or are unable to do this, please consider taking the nestboxdown altogether. If you want to leave the house up as a decoration,but don’t have the time or desire to control this predator, pleaseeither plug the entrance holes, use a “fake” painted hole on decorativeboxes, or remove the birdhouse floor.

One person indiscriminately putting out bird seed can also radically change neighborhood wildlife. Please do not feed birds bread, or seed that contains a lot of millet or cracked corn, as this attracts House Sparrows. Thistle, safflower, and black oil sunflower seeds are enjoyed by many native birds, but are not preferred by House Sparrows. Dumping food on the ground can attract rats.

If you would like more information on how to attract native birdsor manage House Sparrows, please contact [Nameof individual/organization, phone number and website address] orsee you so much for helping reduce the population of House Sparrows andstarlings, and thereby enabling native birds to survive and thrive.

Rev.0.3, 03/01/06. Eastern Bluebird photo by Wendell Long

Here is another version of a letter used by bluebirder Paula Ziebarth.It is short and sweet.

Dear Homeowner,

My name is [your name here] and I monitor a Bluebird Trail at[location] that is adjacent to your property. I am also a [mentionany affiliation with local, state or national bluebirding organization].I am always thrilled to see people putting up houses for the birds.There are many native cavity nesting birds that need safe homesto raise their young. Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, Carolinaand House Wrens, purple martins, American Kestrels, and flickersare all native birds that use manmade nestboxes of varying sizesin our area.

I see you have put up [many] wonderful home[s] for the birds onyour property. Unfortunately, it looks as though English House Sparrows have taken most, if not all, of your nestboxes. Thesebirds are not native to this country and are believed tobe the main cause of the decline of many native cavity nestingbirds. They are very aggressive birdsand will kill the eggs, young, and even adult birds in the nestboxto take over a nesting site.

Because these birds are not native,it is legal to control them by removing their eggs, nests and/orthe birds themselves. I actively control House Sparrows on [nameof your trail] and would be happy to show you how to do this ifyou are interested. Some people prefer measures such as pullingout their nests and destroying their eggs. One thing all bluebirdersagree on, however, is that if you have House Sparrows, you willnot have Eastern Bluebirds (or other desirable birds for that matter).

Please contact me if you would like more information or wouldlike me to drop by and help in whatever way I can.

[provide name, phone number and e-mail address]

The first letter on this page was adapted by E.A. Zimmerman fromtext written by Ken Kostka and published by the PurpleMartin Conservation Association. It is designed to be cut andpasted into a document (or downloaded in MSWord Format and customized), and photocopied and distributedto homeowners with birdhouses acting as breeding sites for House Sparrows and starlings. Feel free to make changes. You may needto change the page margins/setup to fit everything on one page.You can also download a generic PDFversion.

A good companion document would be the flyer “BluebirdsNeed Your Help” which can be downloaded from,or a general information handout thatcan be downloaded from

If distributedby an organization, you can add your logo and name and addressup top. It is suggested that you sign the document and add yourown personal address and telephone number, but the handout canalso be presented anonymously. Perhaps you might also offer tohelp the homeowner dismantle their housing and give them a tourof your own, or a nearby bluebird trail or healthy martin colony.Show them how to do it. You might make a friend!


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