By Sharon Merkel Prudhomme ~
As long as I can remember, my parents and grandparents on both sides were into birds. Unfortunately, my paternal grands both passed before I could meet them. However, their love of animals and birds can be seen in the piles of old pictures and albums. Feeding stations, field guides & Audubon books were a big part of growing up. Our home was on a dead-end surrounded by plenty of woods with a babbling brook to play in. We had a great variety of both woodland and field loving feathered friends.
Recognizing bird calls and identifying each by their shrill calls and warbles was and still is a fun pastime. My parents used to say our bedtime was “when the robins say goodnight”, which often interrupted our lightning bug captures! One of my favorite little guys with the coolest elongated warbles is the Wren. These rather chubby looking tiny guys are fun to listen to making them the king of songs in my book! Judy, my neighbor of many years in Lancaster, Pa.(before returning to my home state of NJ) and I would hang as many Wren houses as we could to keep these fun lil guys around our yards! To me, summer isn’t really summer without happy Wrens singing their hearts out.
The adult Northern Wren is quite small and mostly shades of brown. Their tail markings and wings have subtle stripes and noticeable stripe for an eyebrow. They can be found from Canada, through the West Indies, Central America down to South America. They have one of the largest ranges of any songbird in the New World. A wren weighs about the same as two quarters. Although small, they are feisty little creatures. Observations show wrens to be one of the biggest threats to Bluebirds. These ferocious minis will peck and bully, sometimes killing larger birds during an eminent domain of a nesting site. They’ll even remove eggs and baby birds during a takeover.
These little guys love their snacks! Often fed mealworms, peanut butter and birdseed, these cute guys eat insects and actually have been known to “use” spiders to keep nest mites from killing the young! Mainly, insect eaters, they are known as insectivorous, not usually feeding on a seed feeder. They prefer beetles, spiders, flies, caterpillars, etc. Supposedly they will eat snail shells for the calcium. When insects aren’t plentiful, they will dine on small berries & nuts & seed. Wrens have actually added spider egg sacks into the nests. When the spiders hatch, they feed on the pesky nest mites, thus protecting the hatchlings! Smart lil birds!
I’m including a pattern for Wren houses for those of you into providing nesting. Note the hole for these little abodes can be no larger than 1 ¼ “. This keeps common house sparrows, cowbirds, etc. from entering their private estates! Boxes should be above 4 feet from the ground, up to 10 ft. The entry hole should be positioned away from the prevailing winds. If painting the house, it should be an earthy color to cammo in with surroundings. Grey, tan, brown or green works well.
Wrens begin nesting in mid to late April. The male typically builds more than one nest to which his mate will check out and decide which one suits her fancy. They are primarily cavity nesters and will look for any nook and cranny to lay their eggs. Many will take over Bluebird boxes, natural hollows in trees, logs, even mailboxes, drainpipes, flowerpots and old boots. Wrens will nest in boxes hung on a tree if surrounded by an open area.
On average, a clutch will contain about 5-8 small speckled eggs in late April. Hatchlings break out in 13-18 days and are flight-ready after another 15-20 days. Many Wrens will rear a second clutch. Males will use a nest again but usually do a bit of reno by relining the nest. Removing a layer, adding a new bed layer. The males don’t all return to the same breeding area, studies show less than half return. Many young first time breeding males will return to the same area, whereas older experienced males may seek new areas. The young males learn by observing the “been there done that” males. The oldest recorded wren was 9 years, was caught for a banding session. On average, a house wren lives about 7 years.
Family fun or just for you, here is something to explore! https://ebird.org/home!! If you are into birds or wish to start, explore eBird. It is so much fun to log the birds you’ve observed. Here you can share sightings near your home or wherever you may travel around the world! Here you share your sightings with the largest community of bird watchers. Each and every sighting matters and contributing your info is valuable input. You can submit pictures, bird calls, and your sightings all for FREE. The entire family can get into this with little or no travel! Right from your own backyard. Discover incredible maps and hot spots and see what has been sighted in your own county, park, etc.
For those not up on matching calls to the caller, many options for wild bird calls and sounds are available on the internet. (I personally use seagulls calling I’ve downloaded as my cell phone ring!) With pictures and sounds, soon you and your family will be able to identify without seeing the birds. A fun game for all ages! Collecting feathers found on hikes and around feeders is a fun hobby. Kids can mount them, research the bird and learn.
Have fun! Birding may bring you new joy and get you outdoors in the fresh air.