[Is it legal to] remove sparrow or other small bird nests from house eves while birds are nesting?

Question:

I've heard neighbors mention that birds that have started to build nests in your home eves cannot be removed until after the birds have left for the year. I cannot find any information about this online. Can you please tell me if that is a city or state law? I believe the birds in question are sparrows. Thanks.

Answer:

Hello,

Thank you for getting in touch with us regarding removal of bird nests. It is true that most birds are federally protected, by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and their nests cannot be removed once there is an egg in the nest. If you find the nest before eggs are laid, you may remove it. If you find it after eggs are laid, you will have to wait until the young have fledged (left the nest).  For most small birds this occurs within just a few weeks. However, there are two species that are not protected and can be removed at any time: European Starlings and House (English) Sparrows. There are many types of sparrows, and birds that are similar, so one must be absolutely certain it is a House Sparrow before removing the nest.  If you would like to talk about this further, please feel free to contact me at 287-2751, colleen.moulton@idfg.idaho.gov.

Cheers,

Colleen Moulton

Avian Ecologist