I’m honored when birds make my backyard their home, but no avian tenant makes me feel more proud than my Carolina Wren.
These bold, inquisitive, charismatic, and energetic little songbirds, with their hearty insectivorous appetites, are a treat to see in my backyard.
Especially since it’s such a challenge to attract them.
The key to attracting wrens is thinking like them.
That means understanding their personality and catering to their needs by offering the right food, water, shelter, and nesting sites.
Wrens prefer relatively dense cover and tend to stay low in thickets.
Providing several dense, shrubby areas in the yard provides them with adequate shelter.
Wrens love brush piles to use as shelter on cold winter nights, so leave some around from your fall cleanup.
If possible, try to keep shrub covering connected throughout your yard so the wrens can move around without feeling exposed.
The Carolina Wren’s diet consists of insects and spiders, which they capture on or near the ground.
They will climb trees to find insects hidden deep in the bark and toss aside leaf litter searching for prey.
Wrens visit bird feeders too and sample mealworms, peanut butter, and suet.
Peanut suet nuggets are a hit with our wrens, and they eat alongside our woodpeckers.
Wrens can be shy at first when visiting your yard, so patience is critical until they adapt.
Once they decide an area meets their needs and is a safe sanctuary, the wrens will quickly flit about with ease.
What I like best about wrens is that they are literally down-to-earth birds, shunning the treetops for terrain more on my eye level.
And in my case, that’s nothing taller than 63 inches.
You can find them in brush piles, downed logs, leaves, stacks of firewood, shrubbery, under sheds, beneath covers of riding lawnmowers, barbecue grills, and just about any yard clutter.
And I love this tiny bird’s willingness to meet me face-to-face, cocking their tails a few times before zipping off in milliseconds.
You have to work hard to win over a Carolina Wren and their vibrant personalities, so that’s why seeing them brings a smile to my face more than any other bird.
And puts me in a state of wren zen.
Pulling into my driveway, I enjoy being greeted by two Carolina Wrens performing a musical duet.
More often heard than seen, the wren’s beautiful song carries throughout the neighborhood the way Pavarotti’s voice fills a large arena.
What’s incredible is this bird, no bigger than your thumb, produces a song as loud as a Northern Cardinal.
The two Carolina Wrens compete in a bird version of The Voice, trying to outdo the other with their tea-kettle, tea kettle, tea kettle tea song in a competition I deem a draw.
But the real winner is me because I enjoy hearing these songsters sing their complex songs year-round.
Tireless Little Songbirds
Hiking in the woods, I hear Carolina Wrens on the trail, and they’re louder than any other bird, beating out even the boisterous Red-winged Blackbirds.
They sing in the rain and snow, at times when even I won’t venture out in the elements.
You have to appreciate this little bird’s spunk, and that alone makes you smile.
These birds are aptly named, too.
According to the Celts, the wren symbolizes action, accuracy, watchfulness, and enthusiasm in life.
One word I use to describe them is tireless.
These birds seldom remain still for a moment as they investigate anything in their path.
They’re so fast and off in a flash, I refer to them as brown lightning.
In our part of New York in the Hudson Valley, we enjoy four species of wrens, including Marsh Wren, Winter Wren, House Wren, and Carolina Wren.
But Carolina wrens are my favorite because they’re here year-round enduring the elements with me, and they’re so upbeat doing it.
These birds are not like cardinals and jays that I enjoy see several times throughout the day.
Wrens come out of nowhere, catching my eye with a quick flash, often like a chipmunk, and before I can find them, they’re off in a flurry.
If I see a leaf moving, and I look long enough, I can find the wren beneath the pile of leaves.
And when I find the wren, I’m like a kid in the candy store screaming,“There’s the wren.”
I don’t feel like my day is complete unless I see or hear one.
Identifying a Carolina Wren
The Carolina Wren is a round, reddish-brown bird that often carries its tail cocked.
It leads with its longish, curved bill and resembles a little brown teapot.
The bright white line over its eye and its warm buffy underparts help clinch the identification versus a House Wren or a Marsh Wren.
Males and females of this species look alike.
Mi Casa, Su Casa
It’s challenging tracking the wren in the yard because they blend in so well with their surroundings.
These birds bounce around from place to place, jutting side to side, cocking their tail with each movement.
Fall is the most challenging time to see them because they look just like a leaf with their warm brown coloring, so I look for moving “leaves.”
Winter is my preferred time to see and photograph Carolina Wrens.
The snow backdrop makes them a can’t miss photo opportunity, they’ll strike interesting poses in the few seconds you have them in your sights.
Carolina Wrens are notorious for taking over human space and possessions for building nests, so you need to be attentive to these tiny trespassers to ensure their safety.
These birds adopt a “mi casa, su casa” policy.
Before you rack your brain thinking about places where wrens might nest, consider this.
These tiny birds commandeer anything you have outside.
They especially love clutter and man-made containers with wide opening of 2.5” in diameter in your yard, garage, barn, shed or other out buildings.
Places When Wrens Nest
Here are some of the creative places I’ve found Carolina Wrens nesting.
In empty newspaper boxes, coat pockets, hanging flower baskets, and hornet’s nests.
Detached mufflers, shoe boxes, old shoes, gardening hats, flower pots, and baskets.
Holiday wreaths, under the generator box, metal pipes, milk crates, chainlink fencing, vents to sheds, lawn mower tires, discarded hubcaps and empty jars.
In short, Carolina wrens love nesting close to humans, so plan ahead by providing a few choice nest sites around the outside of your house to keep these birds out of trouble.
An ill-placed wren’s nest may lead to the accidental destruction of this bird’s nest.
Tips for Keeping Carolina Wrens Out of Trouble
-Place a natural gourd or a wide-mouthed ceramic bird bottle with a 2-2.25-inch diameter entry hole beneath the sheltered overhang of your house or beneath a porch or carport ceiling.
Wrens like large containers with wide openings so another option is an inexpensive plastic newspaper box.
-Attach a basket or another suitable container to the wall beneath an overhang.
-Keep garage doors closed to limit Carolina Wrens from exploring potential nest sites.
Garages are like Great Adventure for these birds. They contain all kinds of containers that might hold a bulky nest.
If these birds end up nesting nest in your garage, then you risk separating them from their eggs or hungry babies when you close the garage door.
-Don’t use glue traps in your garage or on your porch or patios.
Carolina wrens can become stuck and die on these cruel traps when they try to eat insects stuck in the glue.
-Avoid using insecticide sprays since these birds primarily eat insects.
In return for keeping these perky little birds safe, they will serenade you with their rich, musical songs, entertain you with their inquisitive nature and protect you against all the creepy crawlies they love to eat.
Having a Carolina Wren is a privilege not earned by every backyard birder.
The rewards of being in this exclusive club are loyal backyard companions that bring a smile to your face year-round.
And put you in a state of wren zen.