paperclip sparrow

Small Wild Birds


  • Some of the common wild birds of the Montreal area include blue jays, mourning doves, finches, grackles, sparrows, juncos, starlings, etc.
  • Wild birds inhabit all of Montreal and are found in all types of habitats. Some species are peskier than others. Sparrows tend to travel in flocks and can become a problem in numbers.
  • Most of the birds have incubation periods in the 2-week range, but this varies with the species. After hatching, it takes between 2-3 weeks to fledge.
  • Their diets include plant materials (grain, fruit, seeds, and garden plants) and insects.
  • Breeding can occur in any month but is seen most often in the spring and summer.
  • Most juvenile birds can spend 4-5 days on the ground and be just fine. Most "broken wings" are simply juveniles practicing their flying.
  • Quite a few of these birds tend to clean out their nests by removing their young's fecal sacs and transporting them somewhere else. Pool-owners everywhere contend that birds are dropping little sacs into their pool. How to stop this? Short from coating the border of the pool with Tanglefoot (and even then most birds just swoop in and drop it), there is not much to be done except to be patient for about 1 month. By then, the young will have fledged and will no longer need mom or dad's cleaning service.


  • They breed year-round but especially in March-August.
  • They are mainly insectivores.
  • Sparrows usually have 3-7 eggs per clutch.
  • The young hatch after about 10-14 days of incubation and leave the nest approximately 2 weeks later.
  • Sparrows usually live about 5 years in the wild but can live up to 23 years in captivity.
  • They can gain entry through an opening ¾-inch x ¾-inch in size. They have been known to gain access to dryer, oven and bathroom vents by climbing in.


  • Finch eggs are usually bluish-white or pale bluish-green and are marked with dark brown spots.
  • Their incubation and fledging period are similar to all other small wild birds.


  • Robins usually lay 3-6 eggs.
  • They can nest up to 3 times per season if the conditions are right. The first nest will usually be built on a building or a conifer. The second nest will usually be in a deciduous tree. The young will usually leave the nest after 3 weeks.
  • The robin's eggs are usually greenish-blue. It is thought that this coloration is mainly for camouflage, since robins like to nest in spruces (bluish tint).
  • Adult robins can make up to 400 trips per day to the nest to feed their young.


Dryer and exhaust fan vents are favourite spots for starlings. They are able to lift the flaps and get in through 1 inch square openings.

Problem Diagnosis


Refer to SELF-HELP if:

  • The birds are acting aggressive (dive-bombing).
  • The birds are repeatedly attacking windows.
  • There is crop damage.
  • The birds are noisy.
  • There are large numbers of birds that are leaving messes.
  • There are unwanted species are in the yard competing with desirable species.
  • The birds are nesting or roosting in undesirable locations.
  • A bird is trapped inside a house.


  • A bird is in the house, and the homeowner cannot capture and remove it.
  • A bird is injured or sick.
  • The homeowner is unable or unwilling to exercise self-help options.


Most small birds can be kept from roosting in undesirable areas by denying access to them. When a bird is trapped inside the house, first open a door or window and allow it to leave on its own. If this fails, make an emergency net by bending a coat hanger into a loop, and pinning the edge of a pillowcase over the rim of the wire. Catch the bird and release it outdoors.

Removal of Attractants

  • Eliminate food supply. Clean up spilled seed and grain.
  • Tear down old, non-active nests (make sure that the nest is truly non-active and wear rubber gloves).
  • When birds attack windows, put up fabric strips or newspaper so they cannot see their reflection. This usually occurs during the breeding season when birds are defending their territories. Remove perches located in front of windows.
  • Use birdfeeders designed to discourage various types of unwanted birds. (Different species feed at different levels, different structures, etc.) This also reduces competition for desirable species.
  • Do not set out millet, as it attracts house sparrows.
  • Use safflower seeds, most unwanted birds do not like it.

Habitat Modification & Exclusion

  • Close all openings with plywood, plastic or nylon bird netting, or wire mesh. Poultry mesh or netting can be used for larger openings.
  • A doorway to an outbuilding can be modified to prevent birds from entering by placing strips of plastic from top to bottom.
  • Place slanted metal or wooden boards (45 degree angle or greater) on ledges to prevent them from landing.
  • Eaves can be screened with a fine mesh.
  • Placing plastic bird netting over entire plants or trees can protect vegetation. Mesh can be purchased at any nursery or hardware store.
  • Plastic bird netting can be placed over temporary supports to protect seeds and seedlings until plants are 2-3 inches tall. Secure the bottom with rocks or boards.


  • Use an umbrella or carry a broom when walking in an area where birds are raising their young. They can be quite defensive. However, this behaviour only lasts for a few weeks. Physical contact is rare.
  • Visual scare devices are sometimes effective but they must be repositioned regularly and placed in appropriate locations. Some examples: rubber snakes or owls work well for sparrows and finches.
  • Most birds are afraid of scarecrows but having something shiny and dangling from the scarecrow helps.

Self-Help Trapping

Live traps can be rented or purchased for use on pigeons, English (house) sparrows, and starlings only. These birds are not classified as wildlife.

Professional Assistance

  • Wildlife services are authorized to deploy repellents and set traps to capture non-protected birds. They also can obtain the required federal permits necessary to take protected birds.
  • Contact MP Bird Control at 514-273-9111 for professional advice on avoiding or fixing bird problems.
  • If you have an injured or orphaned bird, contact Le Nichoir at 450-458-2809.