The weaver finch, a.k.a. “House Sparrow” and “English Sparrow”, was introduced to North America in the mid-1800s. Settlers brought these birds with the belief that they would help control the insect populations and thus help to protect the crops of farmers. Beginning with a few dozen birds in New York (1851-52), they were released in many parts of the “New World” including Maine, Hawaii, California, and Utah. Eventually, it was realized that house sparrows only eat insects when their nestlings are young. During the rest of the year they enjoy a varied diet which includes the very grain crops they had been imported to protect.
House sparrows are widely considered a pest by bird fanciers and gardeners. They are an invasive species which is partially responsible for declining populations of native birds such as the Eastern Bluebird, Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and Tree Swallows among others.
Why should I be concerned?
Adult house sparrows wreak havoc on backyard gardens for urban and suburban residents by pecking seeds and seedlings, buds, flowers, vegetables, and maturing fruits. They consume and spoil livestock food and water, and deface buildings and facilities with their nests and droppings.
They can also transmit diseases which affect humans, cats, dogs, and livestock. Some of these are may be lethal if left untreated, including: Beef tapeworms, Chlamydiosis, Erysipeloid, Newcastle Disease, Salmonellosis, Schistosomiasis, and Toxoplasmosis.
House sparrows are surprisingly aggressive. They are able to oust native species from their nests and have been known to destroy the eggs of competing species while threatening or even attacking the adults.
Habitat and Behaviour
A day in the life of a house sparrow
House sparrows have adapted particularly well to the urban and suburban environments created by humans. Living near humans provides house sparrows with some security from natural predators. They are most commonly seen scavenging food around open air eating establishments, parking lots, and occasionally on the roads between lulls in traffic.
These birds do not migrate during the winter months. Adults typically stay within two to six kilometers of where they hatched, but flocks of juveniles and non-breeding adults may travel a bit further to locate new feeding grounds.
Breeding typically begins in March for house sparrows, allowing them to claim nesting spots before native birds arrive during spring migration, and can continue until August. A pair of mated sparrows may raise up to four broods each year, with as many as six eggs at a time. Exponential population growth has allowed these birds to expand their range across North and Central America.
In Canada, house sparrows can be found in all major cities and town of all provinces. They can also be found in southern regions of each territory, including the cities of Yellowknife and Whitehorse.
- Plumage varies from many shades of greys to brown
- Males have brown and black striping on the wings and mantle, a grey crown, black mask and bib, chestnut stripe behind a white face
- Females are a dusky brown above and grey underneath, no black markings or grey crown
- Approximately 14-18 cm long with a wingspan of 19-25 cm
- Weight can range from 24 to 40 grams, females are slightly smaller than males
Tips for prevention and control
These tips may help you get rid of sparrows around your home:
- Eliminate sources of food, including bird feeders intended for other species
- Repair and seal any damage to the exterior of buildings where they can build nests
- Cover vents and other openings which cannot be sealed with wire mesh
Orkin Canada provides safe and humane ways to discourage sparrows and other birds from nesting on and around your property
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