Baby House Sparrow & European Starling Policy - The Raptor Trust

The Raptor Trust has adopted a policy concerning non-indigenous (or non-native) species to allow us to best fulfill our mission. All native wild birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as well as other state and federal laws, and they may only be handled for rehabilitation at licensed facilities such as The Raptor Trust. Non-indigenous species are not protected by state and federal law and they have other options for care.

In past years, we have accepted many non-indigenous species (exotic pet birds, domestic farm animals, pigeons, European Starlings and English Sparrows, for example). We believe that all life has value and we have spent considerable time and effort on all birds that have come through our doors. However, The Raptor Trust has reached a point where our admit numbers have surpassed our facility’s capacity and reasonable expectations of work for our staff. We cannot put ourselves in a position where we compromise the care of native birds, especially raptors and endangered species, which by law have no other options for care except at licensed facilities.

During spring and summer breeding season, The Raptor Trust will no longer be able to care for baby European Starlings and House Sparrows (also called English Sparrows). We will still accept and care for adult House Sparrows and Starlings. We must focus our resources on the birds for which there are no other options. It is not a decision made lightly; however, it is what we must do in order to provide the best quality care to the native and protected birds we are licensed to rehabilitate.

If you find an orphaned House Sparrow or European Starling, there are three options we can provide for these species:

  1. You can leave the bird where it is or create a substitute nest nearby. The Raptor Trust has instructions on the best way to do this. We have a limited number of nest boxes available. This option gives the bird’s parents a chance to care for their young. Click here for re-nesting instructions.
  2. You may choose to raise the baby at home. A federal license is needed to care for native birds, but no license is needed to care for non-native birds such as Starlings and House sparrows. Please consider bringing it to TRT for an evaluation to make sure you’re caring for a healthy baby. This is a very demanding process and we do not recommend it unless people fully understand the commitment. Instructions and a feeding starter kit for these two species of babies will be available after evaluation by the Raptor Trust staff. Please remember that it is illegal to raise or keep a federally protected native species; this option is only applicable to non-native species.
  3. You may bring orphaned Starlings and House Sparrows to The Raptor Trust for humane euthanasia. If you are unable to put the bird back or make a substitute nest, and raising it is not an option, this may be the only choice. You may also contact animal control or a local avian vet for help, though a fee may be involved.

Although this is a hard choice for us, and may be difficult for others, sometimes euthanasia is the most humane option.  Though we’d like to save each individual bird, we must be realistic about how much we can do.  We need to focus our efforts on native birds.

When possible, the best option is always to leave the bird where it was found, even if a substitute nest is required, and let the natural parents raise it.  If you believe the bird is injured, or you are not confident in the identification of the species, try to get details to verify that it is a House Sparrow or European Starling. Click here for images available on our website to help with identification.

  • It is critical that these birds are properly identified. We are available to assist with this.
  • You may take a picture and send it to us at 908-581-8896 or email birdcheck@theraptortrust.org.
  • Determine where the bird was found. Both of these species are cavity nesters and often make nests in a dryer vent, attic area, in spaces near a window-mounted air conditioner, or in other cavities in the home.
  • European Starlings appear to have “big yellow mouths”; they have conspicuous yellow mouths as nestlings. House Sparrows are completely naked as egglets.

Thank you for your understanding regarding this policy.