Anyone with bird identification skills who monitors songbird nestboxes can participate. All you need is a nest box that is currently attracting house sparrows.
To get started, log-in or create a SciStarter account and click join on the sparrow swap page www.scistarter.com/sparrowswap. Once you join you will have access to the instructions and datasheets for each level.
We do not have the funding to cover the costs of shipping house sparrow eggs to the Museum. Unfortunately, we have to ask that participants to be responsible for funding the shipment of eggs to the Museum. We tried to keep the packaging technique light-weight with this in mind and our hope is that the eggs sent to us will be fairly light-weight as well. To lower shipping costs, you can wait to send all the eggs at once.
No! Sparrow Swap’s datasheets are one page, filled out by hand, and mailed to the Museum along with your House Sparrow eggs.
For transporting the eggs in the field we recommend a Tupperware container filled with birdseed or rice. For packaging and shipping the eggs you need scissors, Press N Seal plastic wrap, paper towels, plastic Easter eggs, empty egg cartons, a box, and cushioning materials (ex. newspaper) for any extra room in the box. You can see our packaging instructions here.
We get unpainted 7/8” wooden egg replicas from American Woodcrafter Supply. We then hand-paint the wooden eggs to look like house sparrow eggs. If you are interested in learning more about the egg painting process or how to do it yourself, please contact us.
House sparrows are a ubiquitous and non-native bird in the United States. They are a great species to study large scale patterns and trends because as an invasive species, they are not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The results from Sparrow Swap will add to the volumes of knowledge already known about house sparrows. Having a more comprehensive understanding of a single species (house sparrows), can also be used to have a better understanding of general bird biology.
House sparrows are a non-native species that compete with native cavity nesting birds, like Eastern Bluebirds. House sparrows are territorial and will attack adult bluebirds, chicks, and eggs. The goal of removing the nest and eggs is to 1) prevent house sparrows from using that nestbox 2) reduce reproduction of house sparrows. Sparrow swap aims to test whether swapping or removing reduces the impact that house sparrows have on cavity nesting birds.
We know nestbox monitors employ a variety of methods to try to reduce the impact of house sparrows. Some common methods are altering nestbox design; adding nestbox deterrents like halos and spookers; removing nests; trapping adults; and shaking or boiling eggs. However, there has not been enough research to determine the best management practices for minimizing house sparrow use of nestboxes and their impact on native birds. With the help of nestbox monitors across the country, Sparrow Swap aims to do a systematic analysis of the collective effort and outcome of two management strategies: swapping eggs with wooden replicas and removing the nest and eggs.
We are not encouraging or discouraging participants to trap adults. Instead, we are investigating methods of controlling reproduction that may prove to be effective wildlife management strategy. We are hoping through this citizen science project to determine whether swapping eggs or removing nests and eggs will reduce reproduction and impact of house sparrows on native birds.
While there are a lot of suggestions on how to control for house sparrows, the impact of the management strategies has not been studied on a large scale. Additionally, there are numerous examples from other bird species where the results of management methods were counter-intuitive. Through Sparrow Swap we hope to compare removing the egg and nest to swapping eggs to determine which is the more effective management strategy.
When your house sparrow eggs arrive at the museum, they are checked for signs of cracks or breakage. The intact eggs are weighed, photographed individually with a backlight to reveal the yolk or any embryo that might have formed, and photographed as a clutch for studies regarding color and speckling patterns. The yolks are carefully separated from the shell by removing the top of the eggshell using a dremel. The eggshells are dried and cataloged to go into the Museum’s collections. The egg contents are saved to be analyzed for environmental contaminants.
Sparrow Swap uses the tools of SciStarter.com to help with the logistics of participant sign-ups and communications. SciStarter is a secure website with user interface designed specifically for citizen science projects. For more information check out our blog post highlighting features of SciStarter.
The Sparrow Swap Team primarily contacts its participants through SciStarter’s messaging. While you may receive an email notifying you that received a message, in order to reply to the message you must log in to SciStarter and access your SciStarter mailbox. You can either click on the reply links in the email notification or you can click on the messaging icon in the top right hand corner of the SciStarter website between the search bar and the log out button.
To access the instructions in datasheets you first need to 1) create a SciStarter Account 2) click the JOIN button on the Sparrow Swap page in SciStarter. If you have already done both these items you will be able to access the instructions and datasheets for each level in the “Participant Files” section of the Sparrow Swap page. You must be logged into your account to access the datasheet. If you are still continuing to have trouble accessing the datasheet please contact us at email@example.com
House sparrows lay one egg per day, usually in the morning, if you visit the nest during egg laying, you can count back the number of days to determine the 1st egg date. Example 1: You visit the box in the late afternoon of April 7 and the nest has 4 eggs, when you come back on April 11 the nestbox now has 5 eggs. Because another egg was laid since your last visit you know that the 1st egg date for this nestbox is April 4. Example 2: You visit the nestbox in the morning of April 7 and there are 4 eggs, when you come back on April 11 there are still 4 eggs. While it is tempting to say that the 1st was also April 4, because you didn’t visit the box during egg laying, the 1st egg date could be earlier.
A clutch is a group of eggs laid by a bird in a single nest, usually one per day until the clutch is complete. House sparrows generally lay from 1 to 8 eggs (usually 5 or 6). It is important to label each clutch and keep clutches separate from one another.
House sparrows lay one egg per day, shortly after sunrise. If the number of eggs hasn't changed from a previous visit then you can assume the clutch is finished and do the swap on that visit. Note: On rare occurrences a female could skip a day of egg laying. If you are visiting your nestbox daily then please wait one extra day to be sure the clutch is finished before preforming a swap or removal.
If you are unsure if the eggs or nest belong to a house sparrow, do not remove the eggs or disturb the nest. Feel free to send us a photo of the nest and eggs at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that all native birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, since house sparrows are a non-native species they are exempt from this act.
If an egg breaks during a removal, include the broken egg in the clutch size, make a note that the egg broke on the datasheet, and discard the egg. If the egg breaks during packaging, make a note on the datasheet and discard the egg. In both cases, please still send the rest of the eggs in the clutch to the Museum.
Cowbirds are bird protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which prevents the removal of eggs and nests of native birds. Because of this Federal law, there are two options you can do if you have a cowbird in your house sparrow nest 1) do nothing or 2) remove the house sparrow eggs as a Collector but leave the cowbird egg.
There are two possible reasons that a house sparrow has laid an egg after the swap 1) the clutch was not finished when the swap was performed 2) the female has decided to lay another clutch. In either case, remove the replicas and end the datasheet for the original clutch. On the same visit, decide if you want to be a Swapper or Remover and start a new datasheet for that clutch.
The Swapper and Remover datasheets are complete once 1) a new egg of any bird species is laid or 2) after three visits, whichever comes first. If a new house sparrow egg is laid, start a new datasheet. If the egg was laid by another bird, mark the species on the datasheet and send in eggs.