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Carolina Wren Nest

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blessings abound in June. There could be no more delighted host to a family of Carolina wrens in a hanging basket than the Science Chimp. First, let me dispel the notion that, should birds take up nesting in a hanging basket full of flowers, you have to creep around and stop watering the basket. If you stop watering it, the plants will die, and nobody wants that to happen, especially the birds who built the nest in their shelter in the first place. The Lord doesn't stop watering the forest floor just because a towhee is nesting there. He depends on the towhee to build a nest that repels water and drains quickly. So you water a little more gently, with a watering can, but you water it. Durn straight I water it; those are some nice plants in there and I grew them meself.

Neither do you have to creep around or stop using your front door. The wrens chose to nest there precisely because they wanted to be around human activity, because noisy everpresent humans are likely to be intolerant of the snakes and raccoons that might otherwise eat their eggs and young. If that sounds like a stretch for a bird's thought processes, well, you'll just have to believe me that it isn't. Following the wren's lead, I moved everything away from their basket that could possibly give a leg up to a coon or a six-foot black rat snake-pots and pedestals and trellises and the like. You have to stand back and think like a five-foot snake. And when you think like a snake, you realize there are very few truly safe nesting places for birds.

I first noticed the wren's work when I was watering the basket of geraniums and lobelias, when I noticed some pieces of arbor vitae and grass laid in a kind of fairy driveway across the surface of the soil. I thought what I always do when I find a Carolina wren nest. Now who put those there?

And then I break into a huge grin, because there's only one person who would put those there and that's a Carolina wren. These wrens are sneaky little things, and they can make a whole nest before you even wake up that it's going on. They're fast, too. Once they've picked a place they like, they don't mess around.

They haul great billfulls of moss and cocoa fiber, grasses and rootlets and skeletonized leaves and before you know it they have a little domed affair which may or may not have a fabulous porch that spills out and over the container. This was a very restrained pair, and they omitted the portico and went with a modest walkway of arbor vitae. This pair also skimped on the dome. Most Carolina wren nests are thickly roofed, with a hole in the side, but this pair relied on the geranium leaves for shelter, and it worked very well.

I delighted in standing at the sink, catching them at their nest building. I'd crank the window wide open, no screen, and shoot away from the darkness of my kitchen blind. Only one hummingbird came into the kitchen the whole couple of weeks I was at it and I caught her in my hand and sent her right back outside. Not so fast, Buzzy Marie.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile you know that I have a lot of favorite birds and you can't really take me too seriously because I love birds so much that the way it works out is that the one I'm studying or caring for at the moment is my favorite. Carolina wrens just happen to be a Real Favorite bird right up there with chipping sparrows, eastern phoebes, ruby-throated hummingbirds and eastern bluebirds. So ignore for a moment my tendency to sing the praises of brown thrashers and yellow-breasted chats and blue-gray gnatcatchers and red-bellied woodpeckers and believe me when I say that Carolina wrens are one of my top Favorite Birds. Srsly.

For what is not to love about a bird who helps herself to the moss on your bonsai trees and stuffs great wads of it into your hanging basket to make the most picturesque little domed nest; who sings a cheery duet with its mate that sounds like it's yelling JULIE JULIE JULIE; who never lets so much as a drip from a fecal sac touch your front porch; who brings a steady stream of more or less noxious insects to feed its adorable young right in front of your nose?

So in these next few installments, I invite you to elevate the Carolina wren to one of your Capitalized Favorite Birds, or if you don't want to do that, already having Favorite Birds of your own, then please just indulge me. Be kind. Gush about the birdies. Because Lord knows I have suffered for my art. See previous post.


Ooh this one is so joyful! And though I've only ever seen ONE Carolina Wren (it was a lifer that Jeff Gordon got for me at New River), I'll have to move it to near the top of my list.
Will you show the domed nest? I've never seen one of those either. I saw the nest over the electric meter by the laundry at Opossum Creek but don't remember it having a dome.

What a delightful post!
My house wrens aren't nearly so Frank Lloyd Wright about nest design.

Oh, lucky you! As someone who hails from the Carolina Wren's homestate (okay, I'm snubbing SC here), you've got a fun tenant for awhile. The scolding will come shortly when you are too near their nest - these little birds are the most loud and vocal and will stand up to mostly any bird. A previous home I lived at, they built their nests in the crevices offered by a window A/C unit - so much fun listenting to them build, talk to each other and take care of their kids

I love Carolina Wrens. Got the best look at one in Barnegat Light, NJ while in the parking lot looking over a fence at a wooded beach-forest. The delicate striations on the wings and tails took my breath away - but the song is the cherry on the sundae. So cheery and pert - how lucky to have a pair nesting so close to you. More updates, please!


Thank you for this post! (and the others--I've been out of touch.) Carolina Wrens are among my favorite birds--another is the white breasted nuthatch--the American Gentleman of the bird world?

I feel like I'm living in parallel universe--our bluebird box is about to burst at the seams.

And, feeling your pain, as last week was one of many repairmen and we're still not up and running. Must be a time bomb on the appliances--most are new and still they went boom. I did rant! ;-)

Back to the wrens--so glad to hear we can live normally--always wondered about watering the plants or otherwise disturbing them. Did have a "situation" when they nested in my riding helmet! Being safety conscious, I got a second one. Smart parents--the helmet fell off its hook one day and, since they were housed in protective gear, the babies were unharmed!

figures you would like Carolina wrens -- they are sort of the 'terrier' of birds, thinking/acting/sounding like they are 5 times bigger than what they are!! ;-)

Love, love, love Carolina Wrens; def. a Favorite Bird with me. (Along with bluebirds and a few others.) Looking forward to this series of posts.

I have watered hanging baskets that contained nests of house finches, Carolina wrens, and once mockingbirds, with only one problem - the day I gave the nearly fledged mockers a tepid shower and they EXPLODED out of the nest. They were about ready to go anyway, but their parents sure gave me what-for.


I agree! They are way up there on my list of favorites also. How could I not love them so much after they came inside the house for dinner twice, snoop around my garage, and sleep on my front porch all winter? More Carolina Wrens! Watching them work here is fun.

Thank goodness for Carolina wrens--just the thing to restore one's faith in nature, after the disappointment of weird humanity.

Lovely sequence of pictures! Carolina wrens are right up there with tufted titmouse in my book of great birds with spunk. Love 'em! Sadly we get neither here in the West, but methinks the black-billed magpie, although not as cute, more than makes up for them in spunk.

Laughed out loud about the nesting towhee in the forest bit. That was great.

What an amazing, magical place you have.

Wonderful post, Julie, and I have duly moved the Carolina Wren to temporary Favorite Bird status. I can't wait to see more updates on this family and hopefully, as someone else requested, a peek at this domed nest.

Oh, and regarding Grasshoppa's remarks about CaWrens being "sort of the 'terrier' of birds" -- well, I just couldn't help myself. Them birds is HYPER!

What wonderful photos!

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