After very worrying statistics just a couple of decades ago, I was happy to find out that the sparrow population is at a 6-year high.
I am used to seeing lots of them in my garden, but even my keen eye hasn’t been able to discover a nesting site nearby.
It got me thinking; where do sparrows nest and will they ever use one of my bird boxes to raise their brood?
The house sparrow is a sociable bird that is very comfortable around humans, so much so that it’s rare to find them in woodland and forests.
They prefer to utilise urban gardens in villages and towns to build their nests. Although they do often choose the hollows and branches of trees and hedgerows to construct their home, it is most common to find a sparrow’s nest in the crevice of a building.
Sparrow’s favourite nesting spots
The house sparrow as their name suggests like to build their nests near to where humans live.
They utilise their nests year-round, in spring and summer, it serves to hatch and raise their brood. During autumn and winter, they rely on it to roost overnight and as a place to rest during the day.
Many householders might have spotted sparrows up near the eaves of their home. The small birds favour gutters and tight spots behind fascias and soffits. Many folks complain that the sparrow has found a crevice to enter their loft space and construct nests.
They are industrious creatures that utilise cavities in many structures, but almost always at height. They are aware of the dangers from predators so choose to nest out of reach.
Old, dense ivy and climbing vines are another favourite of the house sparrow. It provides much-needed cover for resting and hiding, quite often it grows against buildings and has concealed cavities behind.
Will sparrows use nesting boxes?
The sparrow prefers cavities in buildings for their nest but will use a bird box as a last resort.
The birds line them with straw, grass, wool, and hair for comfort. They are messy birds; they just plonk the materials in and hope for the best! They are feisty little guys that think nothing of plucking a feather from a live pigeon if they can get away with it!
The sparrow isn’t averse to using man-made products to line their nest. Paper shreds and clothing scraps are among the rubbish that sparrows happily pilfer.
Do sparrows build nests in trees?
If you have any thick vegetation in your gardens, such as cotoneaster or ivy, it is commonplace to see and hear multiple sparrows flying to and from it. Their pretty chirping is a sign that they are comfortably resting while snacking on insects and berries.
It is rare for them to build their nests in the undergrowth, but they might in trees.
Evergreens like conifers and hawthorns are their favourites, where they pick out a space close to the trunk if there isn’t a natural hole for them to use. Building nests in the open air usually occurs in regions where the climate is warmer.
Occasionally, the sparrow might happen across the disused nest of a larger bird, such as a stork or magpie, and set up residence there. They don’t feel at home until they add a scruffy lining of grass, hair, feathers or paper.
Do sparrows use the same nest each year?
House sparrows rarely move more than a couple of hundred metres from where they were born. Because of this, they remain faithful to their nesting site, only rebuilding if it suffers catastrophic damage, and even then, very close to the original site.
Sparrows have as many as 4 broods per mating season, the structure of the nest has to be strong enough to cope with this.
When the young sparrows have flown the nest, both adults look for materials to strengthen the existing nest. They add layers of dry grass, straw and anything else they can find to give them a comfortable and secure place to rest through the winter.
Knowing where sparrows nest makes it easier to track their flight paths, usually back to a house or outbuilding.
Some songbirds are even known to build their nest high in a street light or old hanging basket.
It is a comforting feeling knowing that any sparrows you see were probably born very close by, and will remain close for all of their days. Once they have chosen their mate, they stay monogamous with each other and faithful to their nest, no matter how unkempt it looks!