"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." ~Wendell Berry

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Trapping and Shooting Strategies for Eliminating European Starlings and English House Sparrows

After I shot my first starling in 1998, I put the gun away and cried for three days.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do it again.  Then, I moved to Missouri in 2007 and decided that I wanted to put up a purple martin house and have a bluebird trail on my 23 acres.  But when I first read the articles on the Purple Martin Conservation Association forum about hosting purple martins, my heart sank; one of the key factors to attract and keep purple martins is control and elimination of the non-native, invasive species; the European Starling (EUST) and the English House Sparrow (HOSP).  Then I read the bluebird forums and found the same information and learned that HOSP are also a particular problem for bluebird trails.

Entrances on purple martin housing can be fitted with Starling Resistant Entrance Holes (SREH), to keep starlings out and the holes on bluebird houses are far too small for the starlings to enter.  The more insidious problem is the HOSP, because any hole that was small enough to prevent the HOSP from entering would also prevent the purple martin, bluebirds or tree swallows from entering the nest box as well.

During my first year I trapped and killed more than 35 HOSP at my site.  They wreaked havoc on my purple martin, bluebird and tree swallows’ eggs.  At first, I was timid in my approach, however, after experiencing the loss of 5 one-week old baby tree swallows, my compassion for the HOSP ended.  A male HOSP came by at 7 AM one morning and by 7:30 AM had committed the atrocities for which he is well known.  At that point, I declared war on every HOSP and became determined to educate every purple martin and bluebird landlord that I came into contact with about the issues with allowing HOSP to breed and roam their sites.
One-week old tree swallows were victims of a HOSP attack.
Identifying the Starling and English House Sparrow:
The Starling is pretty easy to recognize:  bright yellow, long beaks, long legs and iridescent coloring of their feathers.