Carolina Wren -- Fauna of the Week
is one noisy little bird. Or at least the male is. Larger than a house wren, the Carolina Wren is most easily differentiated from the house wren by the prominent white stripe over the eye. That and the very round belly you see on display in posture at left! Seriously, they have rich reddish-brown backs and buff bellies and measure about 5 1/2 inches long. You can see a great close-up of these dashing fellows at the National Geographic link below.
As the skinny beak will tell you, Carolina wrens are primarily insect eaters. During the winter or foul weather they may indulge in some seed, but prefer suet or peanuts as feeder-fare if they can get it. This is the bird I see stripping bark off my old logs and beating the insects to death before devouring them.
Carolina wrens do not migrate. Traditionally a Southeastern bird, they have expanded their range northward over the last hundred years as winter temperatures have increased. Carolina wrens are cold sensitive and can suffer severe population declines after a particularly nasty winter.
They prefer to live in thickets and swampy areas--brush piles and shrub borders can also attract them. These brushy areas must be dense in order to support them. Carolina wrens, unlike House wrens, are unlikely to use a bird house. They instead will build nests in these thickets--or in hanging baskets, on piles of lumber, under the hood of your riding mower... you get the picture. Couples stick together for a lifetime, if all goes well.
Breeding pairs can raise several broods a year if conditions are right. As I mentioned
, research has shown that songbirds will breed sooner and be more successful if the parents have a backup food source to rely on when they are tuckered out. For Carolina wrens, typical broods are up to four eggs--lots of mouths to feed. And while insects and spiders are the usual fare, Carolina wrens will also eat berries if they are available. A
with high fat, high protein suet will help to guarantee their success.
Like all other songbirds, habitat loss is the primary cause of population loss. If wrens have no where to hide and forage, they simply are not going to make it. Adding a dense, shrubby area into your landscape will help these delightfully raucous (listen to his call at All About Birds) little birds survive.