Homemade Bird Trap - Disposing Trapped Sparrows

The following article contains graphic images showing the cervical dislocation of a sparrow. Viewer discretion is advised.

Sparrows cause damage to property and are considered PESTS. I don't have to repeat myself.

You've set and baited your homemade bird trap and successfully trapped those pesky sparrows. Now what do you do? Do you keep them as pets? Do you bring the cage somewhere far and release them there?

Well, if you're like me who see these sparrows as pests that cause damage to property, I dispose them. but sparrows aren't like used napkins that you can easily toss out into the trash. You still have to kill those trapped birds first.

Some Methods of Killing Sparrows Humanely

"Humane" is a somewhat subjective term. Methods that are quick, effective and minimize pain and discomfort are generally considered humane. Dispatch methods that torture or cause prolonged suffering are generally considered inhumane and may also be illegal.

With that in mind, here are some methods considered humane.

  1. Cervical dislocation.

    This involves separation of the skull and the brain from the spinal cord by pressure applied posterior to the base of the skull. The brain stem – which controls respiration and heart activity – is consequently damaged, stopping breathing and reducing blood flow to the brain, leading to death. Studies in rats have shown that electrical activity in the brain persists for around 13 seconds following cervical dislocation. This may represent a period of remaining consciousness.

  2. Inhalation of carbon dioxide.

    When animals are placed into a chamber containing up to 70% CO2 they lose consciousness very quickly due to the narcotic effect of the high intake of CO2 on the brain without causing hypoxia. Death is caused by direct depression of CNS, respiratory and cardiac functions. One hundred percent CO2 can cause severe dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing) and distress in conscious animals but this higher concentration is recommended for young chicks as they are more tolerant of CO2.

  3. Injection of Barbiturate.

    Act by depression of the central nervous system resulting in cardiac and respiratory arrest. Causes rapid euthanasia with minimal discomfort. The intravenous route causes the quickest death.

Of the three above, I could only conclude cervical dislocation as the most practical. Still, there are even a few methods for performing cervical dislocation on sparrows and other small birds. Here are a few:

  • Place the thumbnail at the base of the skull and dislocate the neck by hard and quick pressure.
  • Control the bird (hold its body and chest against your hand), hold the head and neck between your fingers, extend the neck and yank hard. The head may separate.
  • Hold the bird in your hand, extend the neck, put a pair of pliers on the neck, and crush the cervical region.
  • Hyperextend (stretch) the neck, and then quickly rotate or "pop" the neck down-and-away from the body using the thumb and forefingers.

Of the above, the last method, hyperextending the neck by quickly rotating with a twisting motion, is my method of choice. It is done in a quick fluid motion and does not need a pair of pliers or sticks. The following procedure describes it.

Cervical Dislocation Procedure on a Sparrow

  1. With the left hand, hold a sparrow's body upright with its head above.

  2. Lower the sparrow's head toward you, like you're pouring a cup.

  3. Slide your right hand under the sparrow's head. The sparrow's head will stretch a bit and goes in between your right hand's forefinger and thumb.

  4. Pinch the sparrow's neck with the right hand's forefinger and thumb and begin rotating the head counter-clockwise as shown by the arrow.

  5. Continue the twisting motion on the sparrow's head.

    It should have rotated by around 270 degrees by now.

  6. Continue the twisting motion. If the motion looks like you're wringing laundry, then you're correct.

    The head should have rotated by more than 360 degrees by now. Some sparrows would be dead at this point.

  7. Continue the twisting motion to as far as your hands/arms will reach

  8. This would be the final end point. If the sparrow is still alive at this point, it would expire very soon.

  9. The entire procedure should be done in a quick fluid motion. The sparrow's neck would snap immediately.

    This cervical dislocation does not sever the head from the body. It is bloodless and quick.

Cervical dislocation had its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Cervical Dislocation
  1. It's one of the fastest humane killing techniques
  2. No equipment necessary
  3. Can be done discreetly in the field
  4. if done correctly, it's not bloody

Disadvantages of Cervical Dislocation
  1. Brings your hands into direct contact with the bird's beak.
  2. This technique doesn't look as good as others and may disturb onlookers. The bird may keep moving for several seconds after death. That's not a sign of pain; it's a reflex.
  3. Requires skill and speed.

Other articles in this series (click on the links below:)

Homemade Bird Trap - Build Plans & How it Works
Homemade Bird Trap - Materials and Tools
Homemade Bird Trap - Building the Housing
Homemade Bird Trap - Making the Funnels
Homemade Bird Trap - Making the Guard Rails
Homemade Bird Trap - Making the Access Hole
Homemade Bird Trap - Making the Door and Lock
Homemade Bird Trap - Making the Carrying Handle and Restraints
Homemade Bird Trap - Setting the Trap
Homemade Bird Trap - Painting the Cage
Homemade Bird Trap - Making a Perch for the Cage
Homemade Bird Trap - Pre-Baiting Sparrows
Homemade Bird Trap - Retrieving Trapped Birds
Homemade Bird Trap - Disposing Trapped Sparrows (this article)
Sparrow Trap by Day, Rat Trap by Night
Damage Caused by Sparrows

Go ahead, post your comment below!

Unknown said...

Does anyone have an effective way of destroying house sparrows besides snapping their neck?

Anonymous said...

put sparrow in jar spray starting fluid in, place lid on jar .

Blackdove said...

Sounds like a slow painful death, but yeah, will do the job.

Anonymous said...

Jeanne oleary : I happen to use car exhaust and it takes only about 45 seconds for them to expire. It's what works for me. I place the trap inside a cardboard box of about the same size of the trap. Cutting a hole in the box to fit over the exhaust pipe (or near as possible). At opposite end of the box, punch a bunch of hole for the exhaust to pass through. Start your car, and wait about 60 seconds. Shut off your car to check if method has worked.

Rani Stephens said...

that is not a house sparrow. looks like a chipping sparrow.

Rani Stephens said...

that is not a house sparrow. house sparrows have a gray cap. this looks like a Chipping Sparrow, Native bird.

Anonymous said...

1) Drown them. Just submerge the entire trap/cage. 2) Grab one or more and throw them hard against the ground or a wall or large board. Seems more "humane" than nearly twisting their heads off. But then, since these vermin peck out the brains of native songbirds, nothing would be unfair. 3) If you can find when they roost, they are easy to shoot when sleeping. I once shot 60 in one night with a low power BB gun.

Blackdove said...

Hi Rani Stephens. I didn't know there was a distinction. I only know it's a common sparrow.

Blackdove said...

I think disposing/killing them by cervical dislocation is still the quicker way and no mess. Sure, drowning them will work - eventually. It's too much hassle and takes longer.

Anonymous said...

Not a chipping sparrow, those don't have the black cheek patch or black patch beneath the beak. This is a Eurasian Tree Sparrow. They're non-native, but not specifically excluded from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act like house sparrows and starlings are, and they are legally protected in the state of Illinois. Regardless, OP really ought to be able to 100% positively ID any bird prior to killing it, as accidentally killing, taking, harming or removing the nest or eggs of any native/otherwise protected species is illegal. Misdemeanor violations can result in fines up to $5,000/6 months in jail, felony violations $250,000/2 years in jail. If you're going to go around killing animals you should, bare minimum, know what you're killing and that it's legal to do so.

Anonymous said...

Fastest and least painful way - take them out of the trap one by one. Take a good look at them to make sure they are NOT house finches but ARE house sparrows. Of course release any bird other than house (English) sparrow. Hold bird’s body so head and top of spine are resting on a brick or cinder block. Smash head and top of spine with a brick. Hit hard and flatten with the first blow. Bird dies instantly, no movement of any part of body follows. Make sure to completely crush the entire head and top of spine. This can be done rapidly which is necessary when you kill as many house sparrows as i do - 500+ every year.

Blackdove said...

Thanks for the tip about smashing - and wow, that's a lot of sparrows in a year! It sounds a bit messy for me though. :) I think I'll stick with cervical dislocation.