European Starlings and House Sparrows
European Starlings are powerful, aggressive, and abundant birds. They are about 8 inches long with a powerful, dagger-like beak that can be used to kill Purple Martins. If allowed to use your martin housing, they will ruin your chances of attracting martins. The easiest way to identify a Starling is by the beak. Starlings have a long, pointed, yellow beak, (Martins have a short, wide, flat, black beak.) Starlings also have long legs, whereas martins have short legs. Starlings were imported from Europe over a century ago, spread rapidly, and have become a problem for all of our native cavity nesting species.
House Sparrows are a small brownish bird about the size of our native sparrows. They are actually not a sparrow at all, but a finch. They are aggressive and persistent, and will ruin your chances of attracting martins if allowed to use your martin housing. Like starlings, House Sparrows were imported from Europe over a century ago and have become a problem for all of our native cavity nesting species. The males have a black bib. The females lack this black bib and are rather nondescript. No native sparrows will attempt to nest in your martin housing because they are not cavity nesters.