Patient of the Week: Song Sparrow Narrowly Survives Encounter with Glue Trap

By Ashley Lema, Wildlife Rehabilitator

On March 17, we received this Song Sparrow, who was rescued from a warehouse in NE Portland after a good Samaritan found the bird in a trash can; stuck to a glue trap, and still alive. The good Samaritan said he could not just leave the bird suffering like that. I appreciated his compassion, and was so happy he was in the right place at the right time to save this Song Sparrow. He did exactly the right thing; did not remove the bird from the trap, just placed both in a shoe box, and drove straight to our Wildlife Care Center.

Upon arrival, our skilled wildlife rehabilitators were able to manage the stress of the bird while carefully removing them from the glue board’s sticky substance without causing any further damage to their feathers or body. The bird had been struggling to free themselves for a while, so all of their tail feathers had been pulled out, the tendons and ligaments of their wings had been strained and injured, and they were exhausted. This little bird had a long, terrifying day. I was so happy to find that they had made it through the night when I came in for work the next morning.

The Song Sparrow has received stabilizing care, medication to manage their pain, and a supportive wing wrap. We’ve also cleaned the glue from the bird’s feathers. It will take some time for the bird to heal and for their feathers to regrow; we don’t know yet how well the soft tissue injuries to the bird’s nerves, tendons, and ligaments will heal. We hope for their full recovery, and we’re so grateful to the good Samaritan who had the heart to not leave them behind.

The Song Sparrow stuck on the glue trap, wings are spread, and tail feathers have all fallen out.

Song Sparrows are fairly bulky little birds, with short and stout bills, rounded heads, and long rounded tails. Song Sparrows in this area are mostly warm brown and slaty gray, with lots of streaks until you get to their white underside. It’s worth mentioning that they can look different in different regions of their range. Song Sparrows can be seen walking or hopping on the ground while foraging, sometimes scratching at the soil, or fluttering through dense, low vegetation or branches. They mainly eat insects, and other invertebrates, but also eat seeds and fruits when they’re available. Song Sparrows are very common and widespread in North America, and are found in an enormous variety of open habitats, including but not limited to: marshes, agricultural fields/pastures, grasslands, deciduous or mixed woodlands, desert scrub, lake edges, chaparral, forest edges, and suburbs. Song Sparrows are secretive, and usually like to lay low, but males will come to exposed perches on small trees to sing their melodious song!

The Song Sparrow standing in their indoor enclosure, perching on a lichen covered branch.

Glue boards (also known as glue traps) come in various sized trays coated with extremely sticky adhesives. They are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores, and most major retailers, as well as online; and most manufacturers don’t even claim that they provide a quick humane death for the animal. In fact, they generally suggest throwing the board with the live animal still attached in the trash, which is exactly what happened to this Song Sparrow. Although they are most often advertised for getting rid of rodents, insects and/or snakes, they are indiscriminate and will catch non-target species as well. In the last year, we’ve received many species stuck to glue traps: Townsend’s Chipmunks, Bewick’s Wrens, Little and Big Brown Bats, Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Barn Swallows, and even Mallard ducklings. 

Glue boards might seem like a safe and easy solution to your pest problems but they are actually one of the cruelest. Most animals caught this way suffer significant trauma and injury that they can’t recover from. And for intended targets like mice, rats and insects, glue traps make for an inhumane, painful, and slow death, usually of dehydration and/or self-inflicted injuries as they struggle to escape. We recommend that people avoid these types of traps entirely, and encourage their communities to do the same. Not only are they inhumane, but traps, especially when used alone, are ineffective. To control pest populations long-term, it’s crucial to remove or seal away attractants like food and nesting areas and close off access points. Otherwise, the pest population will continue to be self-sustaining, even accounting for mortality caused by the traps.

What to Do If You Find An Animal On A Sticky Trap? 

  • Do not try to remove the animal from the sticky trap! Removing an animal from a glue trap is a delicate procedure and can easily cause more damage and injury to the animal. Despite the good intentions, when we receive animals removed from glue traps by untrained individuals, they often have irreparable injuries. Do not cut feathers, tug at their bodies, or pour any substances on the animal to remove it. Simply cover the rest of the sticky substance with some dirt, so they can’t get stuck further, place the entire trap into a securely closed box, and transport the animal as quickly as possible to your closest wildlife rehabilitation facility. 
  • Do not try to bathe sticky or contaminated animals. Baths are extremely taxing for a wild animal to endure, and without proper stabilization ahead of time, they are usually deadly. In addition, cleaning contaminated wild animals requires specialized procedures to prevent animals from using up too many calories, inhaling water, damaging feathers, or becoming too cold or too hot during the process. To complicate matters further, soap can be just as problematic of a contaminant for the fur and feathers of many animals, and must be removed carefully! When we receive animals that have already been bathed, we usually need to repeat the process, and each repeated bath reduces an animal’s chance of survival. For the sake of the animal, it’s critically important to leave this process to trained rehabilitators.

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center accepts new patients from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503) 292-0304 or email and one of our wildlife solutions counselors will get back to you and provide advice for your specific situation.


Unfortunately due to COVID-19 we had to operate our Wildlife Care Center this past year with about 20% of our normal staffing and with about a 25% increase in our annual patient admissions. We were left with the difficult but necessary decision to discontinue providing follow-up updates on patients brought into our center so that we could focus on the daily care of the animals. And while we simply cannot write a story about each animal, our goal for this fresh and bright new year is to show you what we can: in the form of a weekly patient update! Check in every Thursday for our “Patient of the Week”; with information on the species, the circumstances that brought the animal in, and preventative advice so you can be a better steward for our wildlife!

If you’d like to contribute to the Wildlife Care Center, please consider making a donation here. Your support helps us save lives.