Living in the forest, I feel like I have the opportunity to see and hear some of the most beautiful birds in the country. Summer tanagers, orioles, woodpeckers of every size and color, wild turkeys, assorted owls, titmice, chick-a-dees, of course cardinals, goldfinches (by the thousands), purple and house finches, and hummingbirds, just to name a few.
My favorite is a little brown bird; the quick, often chattering, beautiful Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus).
Rich reddish-brown back, wings, and tail adorned with tiny white specs outlining the wings. An almost amber breast and throat, white chin, and the telltale, distinctive white-eye stripe make this little chap an eyeful to see. If you just catch his silhouette, you can identify him by his upward-cocked tail.
The Carolina wren is a small, cheerful little bird that flits and hops through the shrubs and bushes looking for spiders, gnats, and other small insects. Certainly, a friend to any gardener. Interestingly, they also eat poison ivy berries in the fall and winter when insects are scarcer. (Now, we know that awful stuff is good for something!)
Wrens give a warning, almost thrashing sound if they sense danger. If I walk too close to their nest, or if they see my dog sniffing around, both male and female hop from branch to branch, Tshing, Tshing, Tshing, until we move away. Sometimes that is the only way I know that they have nested nearby.
Wrens are one of the types of birds that build “Honey do you like it?” nests. The male will build about three nests in different locations. Sometimes, it can be only three or four loose sticks. Then, he takes his love around to inspect the prospective house for their summer home. She picks the new nest site, and together they quickly put together an intricate nest of twigs, cedar leaves, hair, lichens and moss.
Carolina wren nests are dome shaped with a small entrance hole often near the bottom. They are typically works of art, unless the pair is very young. This year, they built a beautiful (albeit quite large) nest inside a box on our back porch. I was unpacking a number of items and was throwing the boxes out the door as I emptied them, until we broke them down later. The Carolinas moved in before we could get the job done.
Unlike other wrens, only the male Carolina wren sings the loud song (which you would swear is several decibels loud). According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, one captive Carolina wren sang nearly 3,000 times in a single day. Some say its song sounds like, cheeseburger-cheeseburger-cheeseburger. I always heard, teakettle-teakettle-teakettle.
I remember when I was a nature center manager at one of the nature centers in which I worked, a woman came in looking for a gift for a friend. I recommended a wren house. She looked at me like I was crazy.
“A wren house,” she exclaimed, “I hate those birds!”
“Why,” I asked, totally befuddled.
“Because they are so noisy!” she replied.
How does that saying go? One person’s noise is another’s music. I’ll take the song of a Carolina wren any day of the week. Do you have a favorite little brown bird?
Reach Lynn Youngblood at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.