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PreVENTing Cavity Nesting Birds This Spring

Starlings and sparrows begin their hunt for a place to nest

Humane Wildlife Services

  • You can say European starlings in the U.S. are truly a work of Shakespeare. www.tamstuart.com

  • This male house sparrow may be on the lookout for a vent to call home. iStockphoto.com

  • A typical bathroom or dryer exhaust vent doesn't keep out cavity nesters. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • Exhaust vent problem solved with a removable commercial guard that keeps out cavity nesters. John Griffin /The HSUS

  • A bird guard with a removable screen for easy cleaning is a perfect solution for dryer vents. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • A louvered exhaust vent doesn't provide any protection from cavity nesters. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • Hardware cloth slipped in behind the louvers in this bathroom exhaust vent is a perfect solution. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • Louvered attic vents are very attractive to birds and other animals, so make sure they can't use them. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • By properly protecting your vents now, you will avoid surprises like a nest with eggs or young birds later. John Griffin /The HSUS

With the onset of spring, certain species of birds known as “cavity nesters” begin their hunt for a place to nest.

The two most common are the English house sparrow and the European starling.

Because of the way they build their nests, they target vents like the dryer, stove, and bathroom exhausts found on the side of a house.

If they happen to make your vent their home, it may result in more than mere annoyance: it may prevent your vent from functioning properly.

Hello, Starling! Tweetie, I’m Home!

  • Both birds were brought to the U.S. from the Old World — starlings because they were mentioned in a work of Shakespeare, and house sparrows to control insects.
  • Both are active and like to travel in large groups.
  • Starlings can produce a variety of vocalizations, including mimicking other birds and human speech.
  • A starling couple can build a nest in as little as 1-3 days.
  • Both flourish because of the food and shelter humans provide.

Be an early bird and inspect your house now!

Check all side vents including gable and attic vents. Track down active nests by:

  • Checking locations where nests have been before.
  • Listening for chirping, rustling, and fluttering sounds coming from vents.
  • Checking for bird droppings below the vent or nesting material sticking out of them.


Protect any vents before birds start nesting in there! Protective vent products you can use:

  • Hardware cloth—galvanized wire mesh 1/2 in x 1/2 in square openings.
  • Commercial vent covers—dryer-vent specific and general use models.
  • Both are available at your local hardware or big box building supply store.

Dryer vent installation warning!

When covering your dryer vent make sure to use a design that can be cleaned of accumulated lint by using removable fasteners or a dryer-specific commercial model.


» Learn more about solving problems with starlings.
» Learn more about solving problems with sparrows.
» If you are located within the Washington, D.C. metro area, take advantage of Humane Wildlife Services, our wildlife conflict resolution service.
Purchase a copy of Wild Neighbors, the go-to guide for useful, humane solutions to conflicts with wildlife. 

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