The Carolina Wren


Nature Close to Home and Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist Dave Woehr shares monthly naturalist stories.

LEBANON, OH -- Ohio is home to five species of wrens at various times of the year, but this late into the year only one of them is regularly encountered in our corner of the state by a birder as casual as I. It is the Carolina Wren. 

This species maintains a high population throughout the year in the southern part of Ohio. They range throughout most of the eastern US, south to Texas. They are slightly smaller than a sparrow. The plumage on their back is a rusty-brown. The breast is a creamy-white. The wings and tail feature black bars and the face sports a distinctive white eye line. The beak has a very slight downward curve. Their voice is a shrill “tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle”.

The Carolina Wren is a common visitor to my backyard feeding station. It enjoys sunflower seed, suet, and many seed mixtures. Sometimes three or four of them at a time show up for a meal. Occasionally, one will sit on the window sill or hang onto the window screen while it eyes me sitting inside in my La-Z-Boy chair with binoculars and camera at hand.

Carolina Wrens are nervous, fidgety little birds, seldom remaining still for even a few seconds so I can snap a clear picture of them. They seem to always be exploring their surroundings. I’ve watched them check out my patio furniture, hose reel, and barbecue grill. In the summer they nest in natural cavities and dense vegetation, but have also been known to commandeer unusual sites for nesting such as an unused mailbox, flower pot, discarded boot, loose spare tire, or a shelf in a garage or tool shed.

My son who lives in San Antonio opened his front door one day and was surprised to have a Carolina Wren fly out of the wreath on the door and into the house! Sure enough there was a nest with several eggs in the wreath. 

Now he faced a dilemma as to how to get the bird out of the house. Simply leaving the front door open wasn’t an option. As the bird flew through the expanse of the vaulted ceilings it frequently perched on the ceiling fan blades. Other perches included wall-mounted taxidermy, and framed photos. Beneath each of these, the invading wren left “souvenirs”! 

My son eventually brought the door wreath into the house and positioned it several feet above the floor. The mother wren finally settled onto the nest in the wreath and my son very carefully carried it out and reattached it to the outside of the front door with the mother bird maintaining her incubating position on the nest during the move. All’s well that ends well.

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