House wren, wren house

Of all of the birds that frequent my garden, I think the wrens are my favorite. Besides being virtually fearless, they're one of the noisiest birds around, their loud happy song is beautiful to my ears. They're creative nesters too, building nests in the strangest of places -- I believe it's the Carolina wrens that do this mainly, but other wrens may too. What makes wrens so welcome in my garden though is they eat caterpillars -- insects provide most of their food.

I've got a couple of wren houses in my yard, and although I usually see Carolina wrens around, this year I've attracted some house wrens too. Or maybe they've replaced the Carolina wrens, as I've read that house wrens do not like to share their territories with other cavity nesting birds. I'm hoping the Carolina wrens aren't gone, but only time will tell. This post is about the house wrens though.


I've had occasional glimpses of house wrens in previous years, but only in the last few weeks have they been around consistently.

The reason for this? Here's a clue:

I found a wren house in my garage during the recent cleanout, and decided to put it to use. So it wasn't out there earlier this year, when most of the birds were choosing nesting locations. It seems late in the year for another brood of chicks, but I know there are other birds (like the nuisance house sparrows) that are still actively nesting, and apparently the wrens are too. Is it their third brood of the year?

It's fun watching the male build the nest:

There are sticks in here already, so he's doing something right.

"Another perfect stick! I am the best nest builder around!"

"Oops, dropped it. I don't think that stick was going to fit anyway."

"I'll try it from this side..."

"Success! Wait, were you watching the whole time?"

"You were? Okay, I admit I dropped that stick too, but only because I
decided that I didn't like it. I could have fit it in if I wanted to!"

The thing I just learned is that wrens will build multiple nests, but only use one of them. The unused ones are called "dummy nests" and might be built on top of the nests of other birds -- the house wrens are apparently mean that way. They really don't like to share.

So I'm not certain that this nest is actually being used, but since they're always around it, always watching, calling and scolding, I assume it contains chicks or eggs.

"I'm watching you..."

"Still watching... you shifty man with the camera..."

Although I'm glad to see this house being used (even if it is only a dummy nest), it's a bit frustrating. You see, I have a really nice wren house that I hung early in 2010 that isn't being used by wrens -- I think house sparrows are using it... or chickadees. I was actually debating moving that house over here under the deck too, but now from what I've read only one of the houses will be used by wrens if they are too close together.

I'll have to check on that other birdhouse again soon. Maybe that's where the Carolina wrens went...

In any case, I'm enjoying the house wrens right now. If they turn out to be a nuisance and have driven away the Carolina wrens then I'll have to rethink this situation.

For now though, welcome house wrens!


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Rock rose  – (July 13, 2011 at 8:18 AM)  

Wrens are such fun to watch. They hang around our house all winter although early this year we lost a lot of wrens to a Cooper's hawk. I have 3 bird houses but none of them were used. They prefer an old teapot in the potting shed. They appear to have raised a brood in there judging by the poop all over the floor. I hope they rear in your bird house. All that energy into making those dummy nests. WHat a fussy bird that female is.

sllawrence –   – (July 13, 2011 at 2:06 PM)  

Great photos! The wren is one of my favorites, too, because they are such industrious little birds, and, yes, insect-eaters. Very thorough at that, too, working away on the ground and cleaning underneath the leaves of plants. I was surprised to find that the wrens here in TX hill country (Bewick's wrens at my house) are also fond of the safflower seed in the feeders. We were entertained last spring by a male who built everyday in my neighbor's mailbox for several days in a row. She had to remove the nest to get to her mail. Thank goodness it did not make the female's finalist!

Re the house sparrows, I tear out their nests from my birdhouses each time they build - and they are persistent - but I find that if I do not, they take over and aggressively run off or greatly diminish the numbers of native birds.

Hope to see an update on your wren family!

Anne McCormack  – (July 14, 2011 at 3:54 PM)  

Great series of pics! I love the wren songs, both Carolina & House.

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