Kestrel's Musings

Rambles and explorations from this perspective.

What is with House Sparrows and raptor nests?


I do not know. I first took notice last year when I heard House Sparrows in the oak where the Red-shouldered Hawk nest is out back. They would call from branches nearby the nest and seemed to be there all the time during nesting season. I took note mostly because I try to annoy and discourage non-natives, like the House Sparrow, from taking up residence near me or from using my feeders. Whether that is futile, necessary, effective, or whether non-natives should be eradicated or embraced, or something in between, is a topic for another day. These ponderings about the welcome-ness of House Sparrows had me take notice of them here. They were always high up around the hawk nest or on the same plane as it so as I could not reach them when trying to shoo them away.

Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 7.14.12 AMThese were mostly subconscious ponderings until I showed my students the latest live nest cams from Cornell, their Osprey nests.

The Dunrovin nest has House Sparrows singing and calling nearby and at times landing on a part of the nest. While watching in class, one sparrow landed for a few moments on a perch sticking out from the side of the nest. The Osprey did not show any concern that I observed or recognized. That is when my consciousness took over. I began to notice that while watching the Red-tailed Hawk nest Starlings would perch on a bar in the camera view of the nest.

I have poked around on line a bit and cannot find anything about this. I will keep looking. I am very curious of the adaptive value, if any, to hanging so close to a raptor nest. These raptors do not typically eat birds. Do the song birds know that? Is there a sense of “bravery” in these birds who predate on others nests? Do other song birds besides these two non-natives do this? Do these species do this in their native lands? Is this simply my reticular activator causing me to see this everywhere now that I have noticed? Sure, 3 nests is a small sample size, and there does seem to be something going on here. From New York to Montana to California, From Red-shouldered Hawk to Osprey to Red-tailed Hawk, House Sparrows and Starlings seem awfully comfortable being real close to raptor nests.


Author: Kestrel

Kestrel identifies as a naturalist, Yosemite Interpreter, guide, outdoor educator, science teacher, friend, music lover, auntie extraordinaire, adventurer for birds, and fellow sojourner on this big blue marble. Out there she strives to live life most generously and satisfyingly. Here she endeavors to share what rolls around the heart and grey matter...

2 thoughts on “What is with House Sparrows and raptor nests?

  1. Then there is this…
    I’ve not seen it yet, but close! I gotta learn to pull over faster when I am on my way to or from work and see these crow/raptor or crow/somekindablackbird interactions…

  2. Yes, I have seen this many times. Mobbing, it is called. This is when one species alone or together harass a prey species. That “free ride” everyone has been posting about is likely the moment that the blackbird reached out to annoy the hawk, and possibly even touched down for a second. Great shot nonetheless. I once observed a Kestrel mobbing a Peregrine Falcon. It was awesome! I am curious why some birds act comfortable, as in a lack of mobbing, and in my case here with the Rd-shouldered Hawk may even be nesting, near a raptor nest.