Usually, animals prey on other animals which are small in size or power. It is no different for sparrows, which are small birds. That being said, which animals prey on sparrows?
Sparrow predators are mostly larger birds like hawks; other animals like snakes, dogs, cats, raccoons; carnivorous plants, and human activities. If you are breeding sparrows, you should identify these predators and protect your sparrows from walking into their traps.
Read below how to identify a sparrow, what sparrows symbolize, how to identify their predators, and whether you should have sparrows on your property if you aren’t breeding them.
Who Are The Sparrow Predators?
Sparrows prefer to live around humans; as such, they have few predators. Some of their predators include other birds such as hawks, falcons, jays, grackles, crows, dogs, cats, raccoons, snakes, stinging insects, carnivorous plants, etc.
Pets such as cats and dogs
No matter how well-fed cats and dogs are, they are opportunistic hunters. They eat rodents, birds, etc. Cats are excellent hunters. They have a great sense of smell and vision. They also move quickly, which allows them to climb trees to hunt down birds. With their sharp teeth, they bite the sparrows in the neck. While cats usually ambush their prey, dogs chase down the birds. Sometimes, it is frustrating for the dogs because they can’t fly. However, some dog species are faster than small speeding birds. Also, if the sparrow isn’t quick to fly away, it will get killed by the dog.
Birds of prey
Birds of prey, also known as raptors, are birds that eat other birds and animals such as insects, reptiles, etc. They are mostly bigger than other birds with sharp talons and larger wings. They fly faster through the air than other birds and only eat meat. They move silently not to distract their potential prey and never flock with others to enjoy their kill alone.
Some of these birds are falcons, hawks, eagles, ospreys, kites, harriers, vultures, owls, etc. Asides from small birds like sparrows, songbirds, finches, etc., these birds of prey also feed on large birds such as doves, ducks; mammals such as raccoons, squirrels; reptiles like lizards, snakes; aquatic animals like toads, fishes; large-sized insects such as burrowing owls, beetles, grasshoppers, etc.
Reptiles such as lizards, snakes, etc., often prey on small birds like sparrows too. For instance, the anguimorpha lizard eats small birds and their eggs. They hunt down their prey during the day. The monitoring lizard also closely stalks the sparrow’s nest. It would wait for the adult birds to leave before it steals the eggs in the nests.
Sparrows are good targets for lizards because they are small-sized and aren’t powerful enough to overcome the lizard. Snakes are another group of reptiles that eat sparrows. They use their tongues to find food and sensory abilities to know if their prey is around them. They are carnivorous, so they eat smaller birds, frogs, gophers, etc.
They invade unprotected nests to eat eggs or attack the brooding parents. Even though these snakes aren’t fast enough and can’t fly to catch birds, they attack when the birds are settled down and vulnerable. Sometimes, unsuspecting birds walk into their traps too.
Another type of sparrow predator is insects. Even though many birds feed on insects, insects can also prey on small birds as well. For instance, insects like the giant tarantulas can attack any bird within their access. Sometimes, stinging insects form groups and attack birds that fly close to their nests. Some insects further wait on bird feeders to stalk small birds like sparrows, etc. As such, you must clean your bird feeder regularly to stop these insects.
Aside from the naturally available food in their habitats – bugs, frogs feed on small birds and other animals. Most bird-eating frogs, such as the American bullfrog, fanged frog, etc., wait near water sources, looking out for unsuspecting birds. If the bird is small enough, the frog swallows it whole.
These are fishes that prey on birds when they come to drink water. Some of these predatory fishes stay close to the beach or drinking holes, waiting for small birds to fly across the water’s surface, while some jump out of the water to eat unsuspecting birds. Some of these predatory fishes include northern pike, largemouth bass, catfishes, Mongolian taimen, etc. These fishes are opportunistic, swooping in to take advantage anywhere they see a colony of small birds.
In addition, some plants are carnivorous. Even though they go through the usual process of converting different ingredients into food through photosynthesis, they also eat meat to supplement their diet. They have sweet-smelling nectars they use to trap small birds like sparrows who are unsuspecting. They are brightly colored, and some even glow when it’s dark to attract their prey.
Once a bird flies close to perch on the nectar, the plant closes up, and the bird falls into its depths. Carnivorous plants are primarily found in extremely hot or wet environments and do well even in poor soil because of their diet. Some of these plants include cobra lily, pitcher plants, venus flytrap, etc.
Raccoons eat birds and their eggs. They are smarter than other mammals and mostly eat meat. However, they eat plants, too, as their digestive systems allow them to eat whatever they find in their surroundings. They aren’t picky about their diet, so they eat what they see. They steal eggs from the birds’ nests when the mother bird isn’t available. To get filled, raccoons have to eat as many birds as possible.
Rats and squirrels
Rats and squirrels are regular pilferers of bird nests. They make holes on both sides of the sparrow’s eggs and suck the content. You will find chip marks on the shells of eggs they have licked.
For sparrows who lay eggs in habitats outside human communities, foxes rampage their nests and take away the eggs. The fox often swallows the eggs whole. They also eat the adult birds if they find them in the nests.
Cuckoos take over the nests of other birds and make them their own. They remove the eggs of the host bird and lay theirs in the nest. Once the cuckoo’s eggs hatch, the young cuckoo kicks the remaining of the host bird’s eggs out of the nest.
However, besides the natural predators sparrows have, there are more threatening predators. For instance, some activities of man are threatening to the safety of sparrows.
Sometimes, sparrows lose their habitats due to urbanization and agriculture. For this reason, they are exposed to the natural, more powerful predators out there. Humans also use pesticides and chemicals in their environment, which push these small birds out of their nests or injure them.
Finally, if you breed sparrows, poor cleaning and maintenance of their feeders also threaten their lives.
How To Protect Sparrows From Predators?
If you breed sparrows or want to preserve the ones that come near your backyard, you have to protect them from predators. One way to do that is to make birdhouses for sparrows. These birdhouses should be big enough to contain the birds but small enough to discourage predators from reaching in and attacking the birds.
To prevent the predators from destroying the entrance to the birdhouses, I would advise you to put metal hole restrictors over the birdhouses’ holes. As such, the sparrows are protected.
Instead of a metal hole restrictor, you can also use a tunnel or tube entrance. Ensure the tunnel or tube is long enough to prevent the predators from reaching in. There should be no perches on the birdhouses too.
Also, the birdhouse should be safely mounted to prevent predators from entering or jumping on top of it. You can mount your birdhouses on a pole or a tree. You can wrap a metal sheet around the bar or tree, if they are wide, to prevent predators from climbing.
Furthermore, you can use repellants to discourage predators. You can use products with strong smells, sprays, etc. However, ensure you don’t apply the repellants on the birdhouses to prevent contamination of the birds’ food and water.
Are Sparrows Good To Have Around?
Even though sparrows are exciting to watch and often look harmless, they can be a nuisance. They are invasive and opportunistic. They often wreak havoc on the human communities they inhabit.
For instance, they can invade workplaces, houses, stores, etc. They also nest in risky places such as dryers, fan vents, stoves, etc. Sometimes, they clog drainages.
They are very aggressive and quarrelsome. They push other birds, such as robins, woodpeckers, etc., out of their nests and occupy those nests. Sometimes, they also feed on dairy products, especially if they are in farm fields.
Sparrows also contaminate pathways, backyards, etc., and deface structures. Their urine is often acidic, and this causes the paint of buildings to peel off. Their nests are usually made of flammable materials, which aids fire in case of a fire outbreak.
They are often noisy as well. They make loud sounds wherever they nest and disturb the peace of the human habitats they occupy. Sometimes, you have to move their houses away from your surroundings if you want to enjoy some quiet.
Finally, sparrow droppings can spread diseases in the human habitats they occupy. Stepping on these droppings or inhaling their smell often poses dangers to human health, especially if their feeders aren’t adequately cleaned and maintained.
Besides the havoc they wreak on your property and their noise, they transmit dangerous diseases like yersiniosis, tuberculosis, salmonellosis, parathyroid, coccidiosis, chlamydiosis, etc.
Sparrows aren’t as innocent and cute as they always appear. For this reason, if you aren’t deliberately breeding sparrows on your property, you may want to discourage them from nesting around or move their houses far away from you.
You can discourage them from nesting on your property by installing spikes on common nesting areas, discouraging not only sparrows but all types of birds from nesting on your property. Since birds can’t build nests on spikes, they will have to leave your backyard. Ensure you install the spikes where the sparrows commonly gather, either on the roof, treetops, etc.
To prevent the spikes from disfiguring your house, buy stainless steel spikes. Spikes made from other metals such as cast iron are prone to rust, which stains your walls.
Another way to prevent sparrows from taking over your property is to destroy nesting sites. Remove any nests you see immediately. You can also monitor areas suitable for nesting and install nettings to prevent them.
Cover your vents and drainages with the netted covers. This way, water and air will flow freely, but the netted covers will keep the sparrows from reaching and nesting in the holes.
If you have nesting boxes on your property, monitor these boxes regularly. Sparrows can push out the birds you are breeding out of those boxes and occupy them. For instance, they often occupy bluebird nests.
Also, you can offer them foods they don’t like. Sparrows are opportunistic and greedy; they eat almost every food they see. You can put seeds they don’t like eating in their common nesting places.
This will discourage them from coming around your property. Also, spot the places on your property where their favorite foods are and destroy them. Ensure your garbage is adequately covered as well.
However, you should note that hurting sparrows aren’t allowed by law in most countries. Killing the sparrows on your property should be the last resort and should only be done when necessary. However, you are in no position to decide this.
If the sparrows are more aggressive than you can handle and have evaded all the methods you tried to get rid of them, you should consult a wildlife professional. The law protects sparrows and other bird species. You can reach out to wildlife professionals to help you deal with the situation rather than take the law into your hands.
Except you are deliberately breeding sparrows on your property, they are primarily unwelcome guests. As such, you should remove them from your property. However, if you are breeding them, identify and keep their predators away from their breeding spaces.