Sitting on the back porch the morning of April 15th, I heard a rapid, bubbly birdsong coming from the back of the yard. Sure enough, my house wren was back, after spending a pleasant winter in the southern U.S. or maybe Mexico.
Right on time. He’s never been more than two days late. He was sitting on a branch over the birdhouse, a small bird, dull brown, sharp beak, tail cocked.
Right away he filled up my nest box with twigs, a sign of leasehold. Then he began to sing, advertising for a mate. She may or may not like the house. Sometimes she prefers the one next door, which he has also filled up.
So far he’s not had a lot of luck. One female came and rejected the setup. If he succeeds, the female will move in and lay eggs. When they hatch (after about ten days), both parents will spend frantic days catching insects and feeding non-stop. After about two weeks, they are probably delighted to see that the babies are ready to leave the nest. Mom and Pop will spend a few days giving snacks – this is the time you hear all the begging chirps out in the trees – and coaxing them to forage for themselves. Then the parents sign off and usually start a new brood.
Our other wren, the Carolina wren, has been here all winter. You’ve probably heard its song – a loud, assertive Tee-kettle, Tee-kettle. It’s an inch bigger than a house wren, and I find it easy to identify by the beautiful brown cinnamon color on the back and tail, and a long white stripe over the eye.
In mild winters, Carolina wrens stick around and patronize suet feeders. Now, in May, they have built nests in the shrubbery, eight or ten feet from the ground. They have been known to nest in handy niches around the porch. My sister found one nesting in a strawberry basket on the shelf of her garage. Their 4 to 8 eggs hatch in two weeks, and the babies are out in two more weeks, much like the house wren.
Most people find it hard to identify and remember bird songs. They are impossible to describe in words. Try YouTube, which has marvelous videos of individual birds singing.