Aggressive Sparrows

What are farms meant to do? We have until recently had a healthy population of House Martins, Sand Martins, Swallows, Chaffinch and other small birds. Then we started to see House Sparrows move onto the premises approximately 5 years ago and have steadily watched them get rid of most of the other birds. Sand Martins were first - sparrows now live in their home, Swallows have had their nests invaded and the Sand Martins have had their babies thrown out of their nest last year. I have watched the Swallows returning this year and they stay about for a day or two but they are moving on as they are constantly harassed. We take great enjoyment watching our birds but the sparrows have changed the population out of all recognition. Magpies are also starting to be seen on our ground - they have never been here in the 80 years we have farmed here. Can we have a discussion on causes of this - I know there is no solution - but at a time when farmers are attacked for all sorts it is hard to see our bird populations decimated through no fault of ours.

  • I empathise. When we moved here in 2012, we had nesting swifts and house martins, and one house sparrow nest in a sparrow terrace. Last year, the number of nests was six. This year, they already have six, not even counting second or third broods. The swifts lost their box by 2014 to the sparrows. The great tits lost their box a year later. I bought and put up another swift box. That was immediately taken over by sparrows, despite blocking the entrance til mid-Spring. (the new great tit box is much lower so sparrow free for now, but at some risk of mammal predation). Sparrows have taken over and successfully bred in a house martin artificial nest last year (two broods) and have taken over that cup again this year. They've bypassed the 'curtain' of dangling string I put up last year. That string 'saved' six martin nests, but in a couple of cases, it was looking dicey. Over the Winter, the natural martin nests were brought down one by one as the sparrows started trying them out. What is left is artificial nests and damaged remnants of natural nests, all of which seem to be of interest to the sparrows at the moment. Four martins have been back, and none have stuck around. We are surrounded now by about 2 dozen sparrows. They have territories on all four sides of the house.

    The 'curtain' is an option/solution, or at least was last year. This year, it doesn't seem to be a barrier.

    What I would say though, is it has been a huge mistake having a campaign to bring back house sparrows from the brink regardless of where it occurs. The bounce back in their population over the last decade, at least in yours and my cases, have come at the expense of other species, several of whom don't have an 'invasive ability' to bounce back as soon as conditions are right.
  • I should just add, I'm nothing to do with farming. I also do nothing to encourage house sparrows. The terrace was already on the house prior to moving here. Apart from the second swift box, all the other nest boxes/cups were already here as well. I don't feed the sparrows other than depths of Winter when they 'share' peanuts, niger and sunflower seeds. How they are rearing so many young is beyond me as we live in a house on the edge of a village surrounded by cattle. No crops are grown and no neighbours feed birds outside of Winter.

    Here is my 'diary' from last year for info.

  • A single martin has braved the gangs and entered the end nest at least twice yesterday evening. It's probably got its work cut out persuading a mate to take a look.