another year....same results

During the early Spring, the house sparrows took up residence in one of their terrace holes, took over what was the great tit's favourite box, both swift boxes and all remaining natural house martin nests. They also took over an artificial one. I bought a replacement great tit box just intime, and a family have fledged from there. I can't do anything about swifts or martins though. Sparrows have successfully fledged at least four broods from this house. 

The martins, surprisingly, have come in big numbers this Spring. One pair instantly took to the end artificial nest. Others have been trying other artifical ones, but have been bullied by sparrows. Three pairs decided to get building. One nest has now been completed and two others are about two thirds complete.

This morning, three male sparrows were lined up on the roof. The martins were trying to get to their nests. Almost in unison, the sparrows each picked one of the nests and went it. They become entrenched objects, and the martins have been, so far, unable to continue nest building, or in the one case, start egg laying. 

This has, to some degree or other, been going on for at least four years. There is a pattern. Clearly not 'one off'.

As I have done all the easy options, like not feeding sparrows in Winter and trying to restrict nesting sites by blocking swift boxes in Winter. My only other option now is to block the entire collection of nest boxes next Winter and leave them blocked ufn.

  • Hello Robbo

    Sorry to hear about what is happening.

    Have you considered installing a curtain of weighted strings in front of the house martins nests to give them protection from being taken over by sparrows. You can find out more here:


  • In reply to Simon M:


    Yes, I thought it would be impractical previously. I will have another look this afternoon as having looked again just now, it's clearly been a total 'takeover' today. I do still have the nest at the far end, and I'm slightly nervous I'll need to curtain off that too or the sparrows will simply move onto it. Here's a photo from a previous year, showing the overhang. Not sure if curtains of string will be an obstacle as sparrows usually approach from the side (from the guttering as a perch) rather than from straight ahead.

  • In reply to Robbo:

    I've had a quick go at a temporary fix for a couple of the nests sites (which coincidentally correspond to the same section of wall as the earlier photo from 2014....the natural nest has been totally rebuilt this season to replace the sparrow trashed one shown in 2014 photo). I've not got matching 'weights' so made do to at least try and assess its impact. Martins are fine with it. Sparrows have moved off for now, so hard to tell if it'll work, at least for the one fully 'curtained off'. As you can see from the below, they're back to building one of those nests, and I despite being disturbed twice, I believe at least one adult was inside the complete nest when I took the photos.

  • In reply to Robbo:

    Speedy work Robbo, hope it succeeds for your Martins!


     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • In reply to WendyBartter:

     This is how the same stretch of house looks now. Although third from the left wasn't occupied at the time of the photo, you can see the eccentric 'curtain' has worked (at least up to now) and the nest building has continued. Second from the left is also still in use and judging behaviour, hopefully now has eggs.

  • In reply to Robbo:

    So, because of the apparent success (up til now), and the gradual build up of aggression from sparrows further along, I rolled out 'phase 2'. 

  • In reply to Robbo:

    There are currently definitely six (and probably seven) active nests or partial nests. (incase anyone is wondering what a pot is doing in the soffit, it's stopping squirrels getting back into the loft). Based on previous years, the two in the 'comparison photos' will have failed by now without taking action suggested earlier in the thread. Hopefully sparrows won't get used to, or find a way around the string. Very unsightly and I'm waiting to find out who the first neighbour is who'll be asking if I am feeling ok.

  • In reply to Robbo:

    Well youu curtain certainly seems to be working Robbo, hope it stays that way and you have babies to see later on.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • In reply to Catlady:

    Never mind what the neighbours think - good job, well done. Let's hope it remains as successful


    Nige   Flickr