Tipping can nest box trap
for starlings and house sparrows

The trap on our barn wall is a conventional tipping can repeater. My barn trap has worked flawlessly, catching a couple hundred starlings between April and June of 2002. No native birds entered the trap, probably due to its location, high on the barn wall.

the trap installation in the barn The trap is approx 18 ft from the floor.

the holding cage in the barn Easily removable from the pvc pipe, Two starlings can be grabbed in one hand and removed from the cage at the same time.

the outside entrance Approx 25 ft above ground, the 2 1/4" hole has a small perch under it (actually one of the spare upper sash stops that I made when building the barn windows last summer. It just fit through the hole from the inside. The entrance is the very small white spot under the left end of the gable. The larger entrance hole just left of the top window is barred to exclude starlings and leads to a temporary bat house with access both from the inside and outside of the barn. Once the bats are out of the barn, this box will be removed and replaced with a small roost box for the male barn owl. All the other bat houses are located on the east wall of the barn, well away from the owl box. The entrance on the right of the window leads to the large barn owl nesting box.

April 2003 update The tipping can trap has outperformed all the other starling traps in the past year and has needed no adjustments. Also, two male house sparrows wandered into our yard and were trapped in the tipping bucket trap in the past two weeks. I hadn't been able to test the trap's ability to catch house sparrows because they are quite rare on our property, so finding a sparrow in the trap twice was a real thrill. The trap has never caught a native species, which may be due to its location on the wall of a building. Now I plan to build several more to mount on each wall of the barn, the silo, and under the eaves of the house, as well as several more for friends. I've decided against using a free standing pole mount since it would likely catch purple martins and other native species nesting in our yard. Both house sparrows and starlings love buildings - especially up under the eaves, while native species show no interest. The house wren and flicker may be exceptions, but, I don't believe either are likely to be caught. The wren can probably fly inside the can, causing it to tilt up.

May 22, 2003 update: The new version of this trap is now in place on another barn wall, a lower shed wall and a pole mount. While I was concerned that the pole mounted trap would catch native species, it has actually caught nothing in over one month, even though it is near the flicker box which has been raided by starlings this week. The new style box is doing well on the barn wall, catching as many starlings as the original trap on the opposite wall. Also, three male house sparrows have been caught in the tipping can traps and two more have been lured to the sparrow feeder and shot. They had wandered into the yard about a week apart this spring and one had driven off a pair of tree swallows and recruited a mate to nest in their box. I grabbed the female in the box at night and a week later, finally was able to shoot the male at the sparrow feeder.

The new style trap on the barn wall. This new trap is designed to mount on the corner of a building with the down tube wrapped around the corner to provide a slimmer profile. However, this installation is not at the corner since a door just around the corner would interfere with the down tube. The tube extends through the deck so the wood barn wall won't be soiled. This was a problem with the interior cage of last year's original trap.

Close up of above trap The slotted stick can be slid over the entrance hole when the trap cannot be frequently monitored. This isn't necessary when the holding cage is outside the building, as in this case, because the cage can simply be removed. But, a starling or house sparrow that passes through the trap with the cage removed may not enter the trap again when it is activated.

The corner mounted trap on a small shed This design allows a slim profile that can be tucked in under the eave overhang.

A pole mounted trap After a month, nothing has entered this trap. Oddly, I've had to shoot several starlings at the flicker and flycatcher boxes, both within 30 feet of this trap. We'll see what happens during the next few weeks, but, it appears that wall mounted traps have the greatest appeal to starlings. 3/9/2004 update Several starlings did begin to enter the pole mounted trap last year, but, the building mounted traps still caught far more. Also, I still feel uneasy about the possibility of catching native species in the pole mounted trap.

The holding cage A simple small cage works well as long as the trap is monitored frequently and starlings and house sparrows promptly removed. The cage can be removed when the trap cannot be frequently monitored. This trap is mounted on a chicken coop.

2004 Video Monitoring of Starling Traps
Video cameras have been mounted to view the entrance of two traps on the barn and a third is mounted inside the new baffle trap. While I was satisfied in the first two years with the huge number of starlings that were caught in my tipping can traps, many questions have remained unanswered. Why are two starlings (male and female) caught far more frequently than three? Why have six been caught in one day in one trap only on rare ocassions while a total of 4-6 have been caught in 4 traps rather frequently? Do the distress calls of trapped birds in the cage travel up the long downpipe and alert other birds at the entrance before they enter? Were the two birds freqently caught actually traveling together and caught within a few minutes of each other? I have assumed this, but don't really know. And, what effect does the weather have on the starling's nest cavity seeking activity? And, perhaps most importantly, how frequently do starlings land on the trap perch, peer inside, but not enter? If this happens often, can I do something to entice the bird to enter? An artificial egg has been attached to the bottom of the can in this year's traps and a pine needle nest with artificial eggs has been placed in the new baffle trap now being tested. Starlings and house sparrows do like to destroy nests and this may be the added incentive they need to promptly enter the trap.

June 2, 2004 update The new trap video shows some interesting surprises, causing me to modify my present traps and design a series of new ones, the last of which seems to work quite well. If you use nest box traps, check out the results of the 2004 trap video.

2004 nest box trap research - modifications and location

A new nest box trap design

Holding cage modifications improve nest box trap efficiency

Use of nest boxes and nest box traps by starlings and house sparrows

remote operated nest box starling and house sparrow trap

artificial nest black hole traps

The house sparrow in America

The house sparrow in 19th C. America

Species of interest in our yard - photos and articles
barn owl American kestrel purple martin barn swallow Eastern bluebird
tufted titmouse Eastern phoebe yellow shafted flicker tree swallow chimney swift
house wren big brown bat Carolina wren brown thrasher catbird
Eastern wood-pewee cedar waxwing Northern mockingbird Turkey vulture

© 2002 - 2009, American Artifacts and Richard Van Vleck, Taneytown, Maryland.