Urban and Nuisance Birds

It pains anyone who loves nature to label any creature a "nuisance." Unfortunately, one of the costs of our expanding civilization is to take away habitat for some forms of wildlife while expanding it for others.

Flocks of pidgeons, starlings, grackles and house sparrows attest to the fact that some birds thrive in the wake of urbanization. Others, like Canada geese, are adapting and becoming nuisances where their waste fouls golf courses, parks and beaches. Some golf courses are using border collies to control geese. These dogs herd (not hunt) instinctively and the geese hate to be herded.

Scientists say the urbanization of rural areas contributes to habitat "simplification," or the process of making diverse habitats (wetlands, prairies, forests, etc,) all the same.

Starlings and house sparrows aggressively compete with native species of birds for nesting cavities. Make bird house openings 1.5 inches in diameter or less to keep starlings out. Wren and chickadee houses have openings of 1.25 inches.

Those with bluebird houses know they must be monitored constantly and house sparrow nesting materials must be thrown out. It can be hard work to keep a step ahead of these frustrating birds.

Landscaping that reduces large areas of turf and replaces it with trees, native wildflowers and native grasses can help. Have you ever seen a Canada goose foraging in tall prairie grass?

Keeping your chimney capped and soffits and siding in good repair can reduce urban nest cavities often used by starlings, house sparrows, raccoons and others.

Grackles feast in the short grass. Large expanses of mowed turf are especially attractive to grackles.

American crows settle in for the night at a large communal roost covering several treetops in Springfield.

For more information on brown headedcowbirds, click here.
Brown headed cowbirds are native birds that are at home in open areas and the forest's edge. They are nest parasites, which means they lay their eggs in other birds' nests. Their young, which hatch first and are larger than the host bird's offspring, often out-compete those babies for food. Songbirds like warblers are expecially vulnerable. A handful of European starlings was introduced in New York City in 1890, and they now number around 200 million!  The English house sparrow is another transplant from Europe. It is not a true sparrow. For more information about house sparrows and our native sparrows, click here.
photographs by Chris Young and Dennis Oehmke
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