August 4


Bluebird Predators Make for a Hard Day in the Life

Bluebirds versus Predators – Game On!

Predators are right at the very heart of the important matter of Bluebird survival. So, let’s take a breath, take a look out our window and glance at a beautiful bluebird and let’s ponder the battles our little blue friends encounter on a daily basis and see if we can understand it and help them out a little. You might be thinking, “Oh do we have to go there in this blog?” Isn’t Bluebird predators as a topic, a tough one to read and blog about?  You very well may be right, it’s a tough, but important topic, so let’s jump right in and see where we can go with it.

What is a Bluebird predator anyways?

Let’s start there and start simple.  And let’s get down to the basics so we can start to understand what we are up against when it comes to helping our bluebirds survive and thrive.  How basic are we going to get?  Let’s start internet search basic and go from there.

A quick internet search and dictionary look up states that:

  • A predator is any animal that preys on other animals
  • Another states that  a predator is any organism that exists by preying upon other organisms
  • And our trusted friends over at Merriam-Webster says that a predator is an organism that primarily obtains food by the killing and consuming of other organisms

Well, those are intimidating definitions; thankfully, Bluebirds can’t do internet searches.  Ultimately, it can be a really dangerous world out there and Bluebirds predators can be a really big problem for the Bluebird.

Who are these Bluebird Predators?

Who or what are these scary “go bump in the night (and I should also say, “bump in the day”) creatures that coexist in Mother Nature with our Bluebirds and have their own best intentions in mind, but may not be the best intentions for our Bluebirds? Well, there are lots and lots of them, Bluebird predators that is.   But, it does seem that a handful can be very problematic; there are some that are less common and then there are some that we should be aware of, but they are not quite as worrisome as the first two groups.

Some of the most common Bluebird predators (yes, those animals that live by capturing and eating other animals, such as the lovely Bluebird) include house sparrows, house wrens, raccoons and snakes.  Who would have thought? Birds preying on birds?  Little cute birds like house sparrows and house wrens preying on other little birds like Bluebirds? Raccoons.  They can be interesting from a distance, but they definitely heighten my awareness when they are close in range, just imagine how defenseless a Bluebird or their eggs are in a nest against a raccoon!  Snakes, enough said, they are right up there on the “fear scale” for humans. In recent surveys, snakes are listed as one of the top ten fears people have.  I know when I encounter a snake, I always yield and just kind of let the snake have its way.  Just imagine the limited defenses a Bluebird might have against a snake.

And, then there are some of the less common and occasional predator problems, yet these predators can still be a problem for our Bluebirds.  Crawling insects, flying insects, cats, mice, squirrels, other rodents and critters and even other types of birds.

So, if you are similar to me and you like to skim a blog and get right to a point, here is a summarized list of Bluebird Predators:

  • house sparrows (a.k.a. the HOSP)
  • house wrens
  • raccoons
  • snakes
  • crawling insects
  • flying insects
  • cats
  • mice
  • squirrels
  • other rodents and critters
  • various types of other birds

It’s a scary list!  I’ve seen all these predators in my small Bluebird environment in my own yard. So again, if you are similar to me, and you want to make sure these critters are indeed threats to your own Bluebird sanctuary, I’d suggest taking a look at what they say over at the North American Bluebird Society’s (NABS) link at Predator-Control  in order to satisfy your own curiosity.

And, just a side note before we go any further in this blog, ……….much of this blog will focus on this so called “HOSP” predator since it is so prevalent, so very unassuming, BUT, so very threatening to the Bluebird’s well-being.

Side note #2 and final side note (I promise)….unfortunately, there are a multitude of Bluebird predators that are concerning and we will blog and blog in future blogs, all about these predators until we can understand them well enough to take action against them, in the best interest of our Bluebirds.

So What’s Wrong with Having Bluebird predators?

Can’t we just let Mother Nature run her natural course? Well, we could or we could have or we should have many, many years ago. But, between Mother Nature’s natural course, the reduction in natural habitat caused by us well intentioned, but no so perfect humans, and even new Bluebird predators introduced into their habitat by us well intentioned, and again not so perfect humans, we almost lost our Bluebird friends to a non natural caused extinction.  So, as in many other similar environmental cases, we have to help Mother Nature rebalance and help out the Bluebird population. And, speaking ever so selfishly, it’s not even a question that our Bluebird enjoyment surpasses that of any kind of enjoyment of predators, and especially anything related to the house sparrow (HOSP).

 The HOSP – the Number One Problem Bluebird Predator

Wait a minute, I thought we just discussed the most common and less common Bluebird predators?  What’s this HOSP thing?  That really sounds scary.  Is HOSP a word anyways?  Are you just making that up?

Well, HOSP is the short and combined version, acronym if you will, for the two individual words “HOUSE” and “SPARROW.”  “HOSP” is easier to say and easier to refer to as we continue our discussion.  Yes, the HOSP can definitely be as harsh and scary to the Bluebird as the acronym sounds.  And, the many of us who watch, enjoy and follow Bluebirds just might and probably do agree the number one problem facing the Bluebirds’ ability to nest, lay eggs and fledge, is the house sparrow, a.k.a. a HOSP.

Therefore, the number one thing that we humans can do to favor the survival of Bluebirds is to manage the impact of the HOSP.  After all, the Bluebirds’ natural desire is to create offspring and have its species survive. And, since us humans may have had a hand in unwillingly or accidentally introducing the HOSP into the Bluebirds’ habitat, we very well may have some obligation to help our little Bluebird friends out.  Oh, and, about that human introduction of the HOSP into the Bluebird habit, more on that a little later in this blog.

But, Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Birds are birds, right?.  Bluebirds. House sparrows. They are just both birds aren’t they?  What’s the “beef” between a sparrow and a Bluebird anyways.  Well it’s just not simple is it?  And that’s the way Mother Nature seems to have laid out her grand plan, and we humans may not have helped along the way.

You see, the House Sparrow (the HOSP) was introduced into the United States some time during the mid-19th century (that’s the middle of the 1800’s if you have to do the mental math calculation like I always have to do) and the introductions continued over decades.  And that time period, the 1800’s, that was just a little bit before “my time,” so I relied on some smart Biologist writer over at  Smithsonian-Magazine to help guide me about the house sparrow’s historical moment of entry into the United States.  And, when I say the house sparrow was introduced, I mean we humans, with the best of intentions of controlling insect populations and perhaps even other reasons, brought these non-native birds from abroad, outside the United States, and released them into U.S. In fact, there were multiple introductions that happened during that time period. What were we thinking?  To get to the point, less than 200 years ago, there were no house sparrows in North America.  Fast forward to today, and the HOSP has spread rapidly and are now common across all of North America, except Alaska and far northern Canada.  Some estimates say that there are hundreds and hundreds of millions of these house sparrows.  Now that’s lot of bluebird predators to contend with!

What Makes the House Sparrow Such a Fierce Bluebird Predator?

Simply put, the HOSP is a fairly tough, adaptable, resilient and fairly intelligent bird. I am even a little threatened by these HOSPs, as I learn more and more about them, but that’s another story.  They will eat a wide variety of natural foods, human foods and even garbage waste, which leads to their proliferation. They prefer to nest in cavities similar to the Bluebird, so they compete for the nest boxes, which we intend for Bluebirds. They can beat other birds, including Bluebirds to the preferred nesting sites.  They aggressively defend their territory.   Sometimes, they will even force other birds from nest holes, including Bluebirds. We can go on and on about these HOSPs.  So let’s do that.  Here’s a little more information that might concern you as an enjoyer of Bluebirds…… these HOSPs, they have a remarkable reproductive cycle, meaning, they start to breed only months later into their life, their eggs hatch quickly, they fledge quickly and grow into self-sustaining mature birds quickly.  There’s even more to be said about their ability to divert their own predators and even resist disease.  Not to mention that they use their beaks to destroy eggs, nestlings and parents of other birds. Quite amazing little creatures in their own right, but NOT in the context of helping Bluebirds survive and thrive.  Well that’s enough on that, I think the point has been made on the ferociousness of the predator house sparrow!

Closing Thoughts on Helping Bluebirds Survive and Thrive

Well, wasn’t that an interesting discussion journey?  Perhaps you were sitting down, relaxing and enjoying your own live and personal Bluebird view, which hopefully helped you relax as you read this blog.  And, I’d say that this has been and interesting and definitely necessary discussion.  Hopefully it raises some awareness as to what our Bluebird friends are up against every day.  We learned about Bluebird predators, why the HOSP predator exists and that the house sparrow is very likely the number one predator threat to Bluebirds.  Well rest assured, that’s not the end of this discussion journey, and we’ll spend some more time together on next steps to enjoying All Things Bluebirds.     

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