House sparrows are known to transmit more than 25 diseases to both humans and domestic animals. They are an invasive and prolific species, commonly displacing native songbirds. They tend to build unsightly nests outside facilities and frequently enter buildings, sometimes harbouring within them. Entry into a facility can be particularly problematic as it increases the risk of product contamination, and reports of short circuits and even fires have been linked to their nesting within electrical substations. Along with disease, product and structure damage, house sparrows are well known to carry and transmit several species of ectoparasites including fowl mite. Additionally, their nests and resulting debris often foster infestations of insects like dermestid beetles, clothes moths and a variety of stored product pests.
The house sparrow can be a particularly aggressive species. Ousting other birds from their nests, destroying their eggs, and using the stolen nest to rear their offspring.
House sparrows are typically 5-6” long, with squat bodies, relatively short tails, and thick bills. Males and females vary in color. Males have gray heads and brownish bodies, and wings streaked with black. Notably, they have white cheeks and a prominent, black bib on their throats and chests.
Females are dirty brownish-gray in color, also sporting black streaks (though somewhat fainter) with lighter brown tones on their breasts and bellies.
Both sexes have a chestnut-colored stripe behind the eye, though this is less prominent in females.
House sparrows can be found in all major cities and towns across North America near homes or buildings. They prefer to nest in man-made structures such as eaves or walls of buildings, streetlights, and nest boxes instead of natural nest sites like holes in trees. House sparrows have adapted well to urban environments and are now largely dependent on humans for food and nesting sites.
The female house sparrow lays 3-9 eggs per clutch and can have anywhere from 2-5 broods per year. Incubation normally takes 10-17 days. Eggs range from white to light blue and are always speckled. After the eggs hatch, both the male and the female feed the rapidly growing nestlings. Newly hatched chicks commonly learn to fly within 14 days, leaving the nest shortly thereafter. Although prolific, the natural mortality rate among mature birds is 40%-60%, maintains reproductive potential.
Where do house sparrows nest in urban areas?
The house sparrow builds large nests relative to size that function as the center of all activity. They prefer small enclosed places such as house shutters, drainage piping, building rafters and corrugated metal siding.
What do house sparrows look like?
Male house sparrows have black throats and chest patches, light cheeks and brown nape. The female has a plain brownish chest and dull eye-stripe.
What damage do house sparrows cause?
House sparrows are often a nuisance in urban areas like manufacturing and food processing plants. Gutters and drainage pipes clogged with sparrow nests can backup and cause extensive water damage, and fires have been attributed to electrical shorts caused by sparrow nests in machinery housing. Lastly, feces buildup can lead to structural damage from the uric acid in droppings. In addition the bacteria, fungal agents and parasites in feces and nests may pose a health risk.
Are house sparrows a health hazard?
Yes. House sparrows can transmit a variety of diseases to people, pets, and livestock. These include, but are not limited to beef tapeworms, chlamydiosis, erysipeloid, Newcastle disease, salmonellosis, schistosomiasis, and toxoplasmosis.
How do I prevent house sparrows taking up residence around my home?
Limiting house sparrow access to food by keeping areas clean and free of easily available food. Sources of food and water should be eliminated, and people should be discouraged from feeding any birds around the home.
Keep garage doors and sheds closed to prevent birds from entering, and avoid putting out bird roost boxes that will encourage house sparrows to claim territories. Installing mesh beneath a home’s eaves may also be effective in keeping house sparrows from roosting in those protected areas.
Avoid putting up birdhouses. If a house sparrow has claimed a birdhouse, seal the entrance hole until the bird moves on.
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