Hi bird friends ... I'm sending this response to Jim Eidel on to everyone, because this is important stuff with spring breeding season just around the corner ...
Hi Jim (good to see you and your wife the other day),
Great to hear your bluebirds are back! We've had Westerns nesting successfully (usually with two clutches each summer) in our Jacks Valley yard in one of our nesting boxes for 10 years. I'd estimate we've seen around 75 birds fledged in that time, so it was always a joyous occasion when they came back in late spring.
But last year, the House Sparrows really made an influx, took over a few nest boxes, and eventually a male went into a bluebird box and killed a nestling. I was livid, immediately took down all the other nest boxes (my fault, as we're only on 1.25 acre and had too many boxes up anyway, according to all bluebird nesting standards!).
We now have only one nestbox on the property (may soon put up another one far away from this). I blocked off the entrance to this box all winter to prevent the sparrows from overwintering in there, and also preventing the male HOSPs (as the Eastern bluebird listserve calls them) from claiming it before the bluebirds even appear. As you probably know, early nest claiming is their advantage, and it's brilliant, really!
I heard some Westerns about three days ago, ran outside and then didn't hear them again, so I'll be watching "their" house to see when I need to unblock the entrance. I am NOT a violent person and wouldn't hurt a flea, but really wanted to shoot the sparrows after they invaded "my" bluebirds' house (don't worry, I won't).
This is actually a nationwide problem, with well-meaning people putting up a plethora of nesting houses willy nilly, not paying attention to who they are accommodating. Eleven years ago we had no HOSPs, but about 3 years ago, they started coming in, probably leapfrogging through yards with nest boxes and expanding their range that way.
Have you had to deal with House Sparrows competing with your bluebirds in Lakeview, and if so, what do you do? I have some tips for you or anyone interested in discouraging the sparrows from nesting on their property, and I'll also share information any of you have to offer. Us bluebird people gotta stick together! Take care, Linda Hiller
P.S. Now if someone could tell me how I can get the flickers to claim our woodpecker boxes before the starlings come in (also early claimers), I'd be a happy birder!