Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Bird-X Horse Expeller!

My barn is overrun by house sparrows.  In birder parlance, they're "HOSP's", and they're to be feared, dreaded, and done away with whenever possible.  I know my animal-friendly readers are probably vibrating and chirping with anger at the thought of getting rid of anything that breathes, so let me explain.

HOSP's are not your grandmother's birds.  Back around 1850 or so, some English gent, homesick for the Motherland, brought 60 house sparrows back to New York City after a visit home.  Little did he know that HOSP's are the kudzu of the animal world.  I didn't now it either until I noticed that I was seeing a dearth of bluebirds, killdeer, tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, and all the other small avians that  used to populate my barn and yard.  It was a slow change, and I just assumed there was something in the environment--climate change, for instance, reducing suitable titmouse forage--creating the situation.  I didn't know I was harboring criminals.
Birds flee when Wiener Cat enters the barn, but
there are so many of them and so few of her...

I would have continued in my blissful ignorance had the critters not finally reached population overload.  There is nothing more annoying to man or horse than 50 sparrows yelling for breakfast in the morning.  They are loud, raucous, and don't hesitate to attack from above as I'm dumping feed into horse buckets.  It was this aggression that sent me online to find a cure to the bird problem.

 I admit that my first line of defense was more hands-on and personal.  A couple of years ago I spent two hours a day for two solid weeks (until the pop gun finally quit working) chasing the little critters out of the barn.   I was able to scare them out for a full day...only to find them all lined up in front of the door when I went out in the morning to feed.  I couldn't figure out how to let the horses in without opening the door, so score one for the sparrows.

Online I found several options, and I started with the least annoying:  the humane, repeater trap.  This unit was supposed to keep the birds contained, using the earlier trapees to lure the new ones.  In two months we caught exactly three birds.  They only lasted one day in the trap and were dead before we could get to them.  I felt bad.  One had its head ripped off, so I assumed we'd left them prey to some raccoon or something.


I launched a more in-depth search of not only the commercial anti-bird device sites, but the birding sites as well.  That's when I learned the truth.  Odds are those little guys had killed each other, right down to the beheading of their fellow.  It's what HOSP's do.  They do it to each other and to other birds.  They will go so far as to trap a bluebird in a bird house, shred him, kill the babies, eat the eggs, then take over the nest.  Horrible little invasive species, they are!

So armed with new knowledge I bought a better, guaranteed repeater trap and one of these:

BirdXPeller PRO
This is a Bird-X Pro bird expeller.  It makes the sound of birds in distress (eight different species) and predator birds (three species), and it's supposed to scare the birds away.

It did, for one day.  The next day they were back, so I cranked up the number of species it was imitating.  Day two the birds were unruffled.

On day three, however, all hell broke loose, not among the birds, but among the horses.  The Bird-X was located in the barn loft as per instructions.  Not a good plan.  By the third day, Duke had had enough and refused to enter the barn at all.  He also refused to let Leo, the BFF he's sworn a blood oath to protect, into the barn.  The other horses, bigger and less easily scared, entered, but at least three of them had a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.

So, I'm here to report that the Bird-X Pro is not suitable for use in horse barns unless your horses are far more laconic than my geriatric herd.  If you want to give it a try anyway, it's available from Sears online cheaper than anywhere else, so go for it.  I'd be delighted to hear that someone came up with a plan that truly rids the barn of HOSP's.

Meanwhile, the newest trap--hand-built on order by Uncle Blaine-- is in habituation mode, and I'm biding my time, anxiously awaiting the return of the only deterrent that has ever consistently and effectively chased these little brown hellions away:  Barn Swallows.  The sparrows are known to kill field swallows, but they are impotent against the onslaught of my beloved barn swallows who make no noise, no mess, and keep the insect population at bay all summer long.

My final word to bird lovers:  Don't feed the sparrows!  Look around your yards, and if you don't see bluebirds, robins, and other small birds, you've entered HOSP Hell.  Yeah, I know...sparrows need love too.  You are welcome to come and get mine and shower them with affection at your house.  Please.

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