Monday, May 10, 2010

Life and Death in the Backyard

Perhaps my greatest pleasure living in southern Delaware is my back yard.

I live in a development of three quarter acre lots.  I chose my corner lot because it is almost an acre and backs up to a farmer's field.  Beyond the field is Route 1.  I am far enough away from Route 1 that the constant traffic doesn't bother me but is rather like a living panorama.

The real panorama is what goes on in my backyard during the spring and summer months.  I love grow flowers and herbs.  I also love to provide a natural habitat for several native bird species.

I have my back yard lined with three blue bird (or swallow) boxes and one purple martin house.

The past two years I have had bluebirds take up residence in one of the bluebird houses and raise two batches of four baby bluebirds each season.
The blue bird house in contention

Each year I have had to fight the common house sparrow who are a non-native bird species.  The sparrows come in early and take over the bird boxes, fighting off and killing the native species of birds that I am trying provide a home for.

This year the sparrows have been particularly aggressive.  So aggressive that the bluebirds have given up even building a nest in the same box that they built in the past two years.

A pair of swallows is attempting to build a nest in that blue bird box. So far the sparrows have killed one of the swallows.  I came back from an errand one day and checked the box only to have a sparrow fly out of the box, leaving a dead swallow in the box.  That was two weeks ago.

Since then Bill has built a contraption to trap the sparrow in the box.  After I returned from my visit in Pennsylvania he showed me the male sparrow that he caught with a bottle that he put to the door of the bluebird house that he had trapped.  He intended to keep the sparrow for me but the sparrow died in the bottle.  He didn't know why it died because he left the lid ajar for air.  Maybe the bird died from shock that he was caught.  Good.  I was going to twist its neck anyway.

Since then another pair of swallows has been attempting to build a nest but without success.  Last Saturday I was checking one of the other bluebird boxes and I was shocked by what I found.  The sparrows had built a nest but to the side was a dead swallow.  As incredible as it seems, the sparrows were going to raise their young with a dead bird in their box!

I took the dead swallow out of the box and tore out the sparrow nesting.  Below is what happens when you let sparrows take over your bird boxes.
This is the dead swallow in the sparrow nesting.  
The dead swallow before I buried it

Last year I wrote several blogs about my battles with the sparrows.  I never caught one last year but they never did raise any of their young in my backyard.  I lost count of the nest I tore out.  I threw out a total of 19 if the brown speckled sparrow eggs.  I don't have a problem throwing out the sparrow eggs but I don't think I could destroy young sparrows.  I'm not that ruthless.....yet.  

At the present time there is a sparrow nest in one of the purple martin apartments.  I'll wait until they lay their eggs and then I'll take out their nest, eggs and all.  There is a downside to this.  Last year when I tore out one of the nest the sparrow got into one of the purple martin apartment and killed three baby purple martins.

Planter boxes that edge my back yard bull of herbs

The purple martin house with gourds for the swallows


  1. A note, the salmon colored rose pictured in this blog is my rose in my backyard now. It represents beauty and the dead swallow represents the ugliness of death and destruction that the sparrow brings to my back yard.

  2. The music you are playing on this post. It's from "Picnic" when Kim Novak and William Holden are dancing at the picnic. It is the most sexy and romantic scene. Anyway, it's "The Birds" time of year again.

  3. Mike,

    Can't fool you. :) Yes, you're right. "Moonglow" is from "Picnic." For a couple of years I've been looking for this music to play on my blog but I was looking under the wrong title...."Picnic." I remember this scene with William Holden and Kim Novak. Very, very sexy. Of course it takes two sexy actors to pull it off and both Holden and Novak are those actors.

    Yes, it's the "Birds" again this year. Always a battle in the Tipton/Kelly backyard.


  4. Hi there, feeling for your sparrow problems. I found a dead chickadee in mine box this spring. I use repeated bait trap and Van Ert in-box trap. Still lots of them around. I did let house sparrow nest in hopes that they leave chickadee alone, they did not :( Last year in emergencies I put the glue traps they sell for mice in dollar store right in the box, cough a couple sparrows this way. Only when I know they actively using it. I don't let the bird get really sticky on it just to prevent it from leaving. Not humane but it works. I use caught sparrows in my repeater trap. I made one myself. Good info on sparrow control is

  5. Di,
    I sympathize with you in your sparrow problems. Just this morning I saw two sparrows having sex on a perch at my purple martin house. Last week I took six sparrow eggs out of their nest that they had made in the gourd. I left their nest in the gourd in hopes that it would distract the sparrows from the baby purple martins. I'll let them lay the eggs and then take the eggs out. Last year I accumulated a total of 19 sparrow eggs. So far this year I have 14. The sparrows are evil. I'm not at the point where I can destroy live baby sparrows but I sure can take out the eggs. Good luck in your battle with the sparrows.



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