Nest Box Trap Warning

by Floyd VanErt

Nest box sparrow traps are death traps—and they can mean death to the wrong birds unless they are properly monitored.

Either very frequent or constant monitoring is a must! Anyone setting a trap should take all the necessary precautions.

Special attention needs to be given to when, where, and for how long the traps are set.

Weather plays a big role.

In cooler weather, the traps should never go longer than one-half hour without being checked, preferably less. In hot weather, traps should never go unchecked for longer than 15-20 minutes.

It is not always necessary to maintain constant eye contact with the box which has a trap set inside, but you should return to check the box very soon.

Sometimes, it may be hard to go back and check on the trap when you are out monitoring a bluebird trail.

In that case, it may be better to simply clean out a sparrow nest from the nest box and not place a trap.

You may have to go back later to do the trapping; but at least that way, you are not letting the pesky sparrows reproduce.

I send out a warning with every trap.

Unfortunately, not everyone reads that warning.

One gentleman bought a couple traps and e-mailed me a few days later to tell me how well he liked the trap—he had trapped two male sparrows so far in his bluebird box.

He then went on to say that he had since had the trap set for TWO DAYS but had not caught any more.

I immediately e-mailed him back and, in not very nice words, told him to get that trap out of that box—and to READ THE WARNING!

I get a lot of e-mails and phone calls about trapping.

I stress in strong words about the danger of setting traps and trapping other birds.

One fellow asked how the trap knew the difference between a bluebird and a sparrow.

Some other kinds of traps are sold without a warning of any kind.

Sandy Seibert gave a talk about bluebirds at a meeting in Iowa in late June and stated that the best kind of nest box was the one that is monitored.

The very same advice is necessary with a trap.

You MUST monitor the trap you set.

Nest box trap warning

If you are not going to trap properly, you are better off to not trap at all.

Ground traps are a little different, but they too should be monitored regularly—at least every half day at a minimum. In hot weather, I put the ground traps in the shade in case a protected bird is trapped.

There are many ways to trap sparrows once you know how.

Normally, you will trap the male in a short time.

However, if the nest is started and the female is trapped first, the whole picture changes.

Then the male may become extremely skeptical and be very difficult to trap; but the male is the guy you really need to get.

If you only trap the female, the male will only call in another female and take over the nest box again.

Some sparrows may actually become “untrappable”— they just die of old age.

Sparrows function differently in the field than they do around a farmyard.

I try to set people up on a trapping program, and it can certainly make a difference if done properly.

Below is the warning that goes out with every trap I sell—just a little plain English WARNING:

Because this trap has been specially designed for the live capture of undesirable nest box predators, please be aware that its use may also result in the capture of desirable and protected species.

Also be aware of the fact that a nest box, which has become sealed from escape by the trap being tripped, may very quickly become a “death box.”

Therefore, it is extremely important to use this trap in a responsible manner.

The following precautions should be taken whenever using this trap:

  • Trap should be used only when you are certain, or strongly suspicious, that a nest box is being actively used by either English “house” sparrows or European starlings.
  • Trap should only be put in place and set if you are able to watch the nest box continuously from a secluded place or return to the nest box to check it for capture within a very short period of time (no longer than one hour).
  • Caution should be taken to be sure the captured bird is, in fact, either an English sparrow or European starling before taking any action towards disposal.

Originally printed in Bluebirds Across Nebraska Newsletter BANner Volume 10 Number 2 Summerl 2003