House sparrows are abundant in urban areas everywhere, from inner cities out to the suburbs.
These tiny, intelligent birds like to live close to people. They hop surreptitiously to feed on the crumbs and scraps that accumulate around picnic tables and trash cans.
They build cozy nests in dryer vents and air conditioning vents and even in the air filter of your parked car.
Sparrows like to chirp and chatter. Their singing can wake you up every day before dawn. And when their nests block vents, they create fire hazards.
In this article, we’ll tell you a number of ways to get rid of sparrows in your house and around your house.
What attracts sparrows to urban living?
Sparrows thrive on the food and shelter humans provide.
They eat our discarded food and the insects that buzz around our garbage cans.
They dart in front of our cars as we drive down the road, picking off the moths and flies we hit with our fenders and windshields the night before.
House sparrows feed on weeds and seeds, but they prefer food provided by humans. This is why you are more likely to find house sparrows in urban areas, and sometimes they may decide to move in with you.
House sparrows thrive on the food and shelter we provide. They prefer to live anywhere there are people. Like other common urban wild neighbors, we create the perfect habitat for house sparrows.
House sparrows may build their nests in your cozy dryer vent. Or they may keep themselves warm and dry in the updraft from your furnace vent.
Sparrows love to build their nests in crevices in crumbling brick and stone walls, and around window-mounted air conditioners.
Dryer and other vents, attic vent louvers, and crevices, such as around window-mounted air-conditioners, are favorite nest locations.
And the most important thing to remember about getting rid of sparrows?
If you feed them, they will come.
Start any program for getting rid of sparrows by making sure you aren’t feeding them.
You don’t have to stop feeding the birds you want to have around. You just need to avoid feeding house sparrows.
How to avoid feeding house sparrows
You can avoid feeding house sparrows by
- Making sure your bird feeder is sparrow-proof. You don’t have to give up on feeding all birds to avoid providing sparrows with an all-you-can-eat buffet. Just avoid feeding birds on the ground or from platform feeders. Use a clinging mesh feeder that other small birds can use but sparrows can’t, because of the configuration of their toes.
- Setting up a decoy feeder at least 15 feet (5 meters) away from your house. With this method, you aren’t hurting the sparrows. You are just giving them a reason to go somewhere else. You don’t need to put out expensive songbird seed mixes in this feeder. Inexpensive cracked corn will do.
- Replacing your feeder with seed bells or seed cylinders. It is hard for sparrows to peck seeds out of these preformed seed cakes. To keep larger birds from perching on top of the seed bell or seed cylinder and pecking down, put an old compact disc on top of the shape. Otherwise, heavier birds pecking down on the bell or cylinder may break it apart..
- Using nyjer seed feeders to attract finches. Nyjer is a yellow African daisy with tiny seeds. Nyjer seed feeder ports and perches are too small for house sparrows, but perfect for house finches, purple finches, song sparrows, mourning doves, goldfinches, and quail.
- Providing suet in an upside-down feeder. Sparrows have difficulty hanging upside down and slide off the suet.
Never put out the favorite foods of house sparrows, including Milo, wheat, millet, and cracked corn.
One more rule: Never put out millet. It’s the favorite food of house sparrows.
It’s also important to avoid putting out cracked corn on platform feeders or on the ground.
You also need to avoid housing house sparrows
It is bad enough that house sparrows can try to take over your house, but don’t bring the situation on yourself by building them birdhouses, too.
If you want to have birdhouses, but you don’t want to have sparrows in them, here are some things you can do:
Only use birdhouses designed for the species you want to attract.
Place them in the kinds of locations where that species likes to nest and provide generous amounts of their favorite food.
Place birdhouses and nesting boxes at least 300 feet (100 meters) away from your house.
Many desirable songbirds enjoy their privacy, but house sparrows prefer to roost and nest close to humans.
Put out birdhouses and nesting boxes only after desired species arrive in the spring. Or keep their entrances plugged until desirable migrating birds arrive in your area.
House sparrows otherwise will stay in your birdhouses all year round.
Install more birdhouses than you think you will need. With a little luck, house sparrows won’t occupy all of them.
Many standard bird deterrents also work for house sparrows
A lot of the techniques you would use for keeping other birds away also work with sparrows.
They don’t like getting wet in motion-activated lawn sprinkler systems.
They can’t roost on flat surfaces where you put out bird spikes. They are frightened away, at least at first, by animatronic owls, and they don’t like flashy reflective lights.
You can scare house sparrows away by flying a predator kite, or you can play recordings of house sparrow distress sounds.
Install shock tape on house sparrow roosting areas. But the major problems with house sparrows come when they decide to nest in your house, not around your house.
Removing house sparrows from dryer vents
Every spring, wildlife control experts get calls about how to extract house sparrows from dryer vents.
Typically, house sparrows had started nesting around the hone the year before, and when cold weather came, they looked for a warmer place to build their nest.
Most of the time, house sparrows stay in the ductwork just a few inches from its exterior opening, and eviction is humane and easy.
Sometimes, especially when the dry vent is open inside a wall or ceiling, the house sparrows wander out of the vent duct and get stuck between the walls.
Just be aware that not every situation is the same. You need to take decisive action when your vent duct opens inside the wall or inside your attic.
This lets flocks of house sparrows roost and nest in your attic. They could get stuck inside your walls.
How will I know house sparrows are nesting in my dryer vent?
House sparrows are noisy birds. They start chirping and singing at the first light of dawn.
When they are inside a dryer vent, the ductwork carries their noise into your laundry room and sometimes throughout a small house.
Or you may only notice them when you are putting clothes into or taking clothes out of your dryer.
House sparrows may also build nests in kitchen vents and bathroom vents at the top of your house. If your bathroom vent is not screened, sparrows and mice can get into your attic, sometimes in numbers of 100 or more.
If you hear bird sounds in your walls, you need to make a note of where in case the birds die inside, so you can get them removed before the odor overwhelms your home.
How do I get house sparrows out of my dryer vent?
When adult sparrows are nesting at the end of a dryer vent, all you need to do is to reach in and remove them.
If the female is brooding over a clutch of eggs, or they have babies in a nest, then the eggs or young birds need to be transferred to a wildlife rescue center.
You will also need to remove any nesting materials once you have removed the birds. House sparrows carry lice, and their nests hold urine, fecal matter, bacteria, and mold.
Wear gloves when you handle a nest. Wrap it in plastic and dispose of it in the trash.
Wash your hands thoroughly after handling either birds or bird nests. Once the birds are out, cover the dryer vent with bird netting, but make sure it is open enough that lint will blow out.
Evicting house sparrows from cracks and crevices
House sparrows can also build nests in crevices and cracks in siding and masonry.
One way to repel house sparrows from the tight spaces where they would like to build nests is to put out a chemical called methyl anthranilate.
To humans, it smells vaguely like grape soda. But house sparrows find it irritates their “nostrils” and gives them a headache. The effects of the chemical wear off a few minutes after they fly away.
After you expel the birds, caulk the crack or crevice, or replace rotted siding. Cracks in masonry can indicate a shifting foundation or earthquake damage.
What do you do if a house sparrow is flying around indoors?
You can remove indoor sparrows humanely by catching them with nets or in live traps.
Once you catch the sparrow, you can let it go outside.
Capture and release is only a short-term solution for a house sparrow problem, but you can prevent recurrences by reminding everyone to watch for birds when they open doors and unscreened windows, and by sealing points of entry into your home.
Unacceptable methods of getting rid of house sparrows
There are two methods that are never acceptable for getting rid of house sparrows. Don’t shoot them with shotguns.
That’s illegal inside city limits, and you may hit more than you are aiming for. Pellet guns aren’t as generally lethal but there can be tragic accidents.
It’s also never a good idea to set out glue traps. Other animals and pets can get caught in them, causing your more grief than the trouble caused by the birds.
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