How do I handle sparrow bullies?

swallows in the mud nest
Photo credit: Kathy & Sam

We have been trying to attract swallows back to our neighborhood, and after 15 years we have a nesting pair in our yard. We have noticed sparrows trying to evict our family of swallows. The babies have not yet fledged, and we are concerned. What can we do?

- Yamhill County, OR

Sparrows can be a problem whether you're trying to host swallows or bluebirds. Much of the advice available mentions bluebirds, but the problem (sparrows taking over nest boxes) is the same so the potential solutions should apply. First, some folks have had good success getting new or modifying old boxes to have a slot entrance rather than a hole. Regardless of entrance shape, make sure there's not a perch sticking out of the box, as sparrows find those very handy when they're working to raid a nest. The second suggestion I've seen is to use scare tape (the shiny film-like ribbons) above or over the entrance: Apparently bluebirds and swallows are not bothered by that, but sparrows avoid it. Without any endorsement of particular brands, you might find these pages helpful while considering options: Spooker, House


Dana Sanchez
Associate Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist
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