Carolina Wren

by Kyle Sweet, The Sanctuary Golf Club, Florida Master Naturalist

Four Keys to ID

Size & Shape – A small, chunky bird with a round body and long tail. Large head with very little neck and the distinctive bill which is long, slender and down-curved.

Color Pattern – Both males and females are bright reddish-brown above and buffy-orange below with a white eyebrow stripe , dark bill, white chin and throat.

Behavior – Hops with a quick flight around vegetated areas, scooting up and down tree trunks in search of food. They often explore garages, woodpiles and back yards. They establish and defend their territory with constant singing and aggressively chase off intruders.

Habitat – Dense vegetation in wooded areas. They love to move low through tangled understory, including brush piles and areas choked with vines.

The Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus, is a brightly colored wren that is common in open woods and backyards throughout the southeast United States. It is known for its rich musical song and pairs have notably been observed performing a duet, whereas the female provides a chattering note while the male sings. A male was once documented to sing 3,000 times in one day.

In addition to performing together, they often forage together as well. They curiously explore low tangles, foliage and tree bark, feeding mostly on insects. They may also frequent feeders for suet and peanuts if available. Caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers and crickets are atop the menu, but they may also capture the occasional small lizard or frog. In the winter, they will rely more on berries, small fruits and seeds.

Carolina Wrens mate for life. They remain together year-round, defending permanent territories that they’ve established. They nest in nearly any type of cavity, often made from woodpeckers or made by the rotting of tree trunks, stumps or downed large branches. They will certainly nest in nest boxes and many other artificial sites as well. The nest is comprised of twigs, leaves and weeds with a lining of softer material such as moss, animal hair or feathers. It’s a domed nest with a side entrance and quite deep to house up to eight eggs and nestlings. With up to three broods per year, they become quite proficient at nest building.

This week’s Sweet Shot has been at least a year in the making. I was finally able to get this wren to sit still enough upon a large mower seat to capture a photo without using a flash and actually captured a clear image in low light. I think I finally just got lucky!

Golf courses all around the country have a “shop dog” or “shop cat”, but here at The Sanctuary we officially have a “shop bird”. This wren and its mate have been a fixture at the shop for the past few years and interestingly, Mourning doves, which were always nesting in and around our facility haven’t been around at all. There you have it, the wrens are certainly protective of their home. They sing us a “Hello” in the morning when we open up the bay doors and have nested in everything from our large rubber sandblasting gloves to numerous nuts and bolts bins. It’s hilarious, if there’s not quite enough room they actually toss the nuts and washers out onto the floor. I wish we had the video! They once made a nest in a staff member’s motorcycle helmet in just one day, surprise!!!

At the end of a long day, once they know the staff is gone and the equipment is quiet, they emerge and take over in the shop. I like to think they spend the late day exploring their urban environment before calling it a night. They’ll soon see us well before the sunrise to do it all again.

If you’re lucky enough to start the day with the song of the Carolina wren, than you are fortunate like us to be able to enjoy this vocal, active, interesting and certainly entertaining small bird.

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